2014-2015 – Greatest year in Florida girls high school basketball history
By Bob Corwin
Competitive seasons are like bottles of wine in that some are better than others. Most years a state is lucky to have one team receiving national recognition, let alone have four! In looking at the history of Florida high school girls basketball (having followed it more closely than not for about 30 years), I say one would be hard pressed to find another year with as much positive national recognition coming the way of Sunshine State prep players and teams than for the recently concluded season.
Two McDonald’s All-Americans
Beatrice Mompremier of Miami High School and Destinee Walker of Orlando Lake Highland Prep were named 2015 McDonald’s High School All-Americans.
Mompremier led her team to the Florida 8A title with dominating post play. She has improved her variety of post moves and handles the ball better in the open court than in prior years. In high school she dominated the paint with her rebounding and shot blocking ability.
Walker led her team to a hard won (overtime versus Fort Myers Dunbar) 4A title in Lakeland. Her ability to combine 5-10 size, athleticism, above average basketball IQ and successful shooting on the perimeter, particularly the three-ball, made her one of the best at the shooting guard position this season in American high school girls basketball.
Rellah Boothe of Jacksonville Potter’s House Christian Academy made national headlines by scoring 37 points (plus 22 rebounds) in defeating then #1 nationally ranked Murfreesboro (Tennessee) Blackman High School in the Blackman gym in late November. Boothe continued to terrorize opposing teams averaging 20.7 points per game for the season. A lefty power forward, at 6-1 she can attack the basket, hit the mid-range shot and shoot the three. She is a strong rebounder and a shot blocking presence. While not all may say so today, Rellah will likely be considered top five nationally in the 2017 class in the final analysis two years hence. This writer considers her the best Florida college prospect since Sylvia Fowles (Miami Edison/Gulliver Prep and then LSU) now a WNBA star with the Chicago Sky.
Bob not always a fan of Florida prep team ball
I have at times over the last few decades been very critical of the style of basketball played in Florida. No doubt, the Sunshine State produces one quality athlete after another. However, the skills and on court understanding possessed by these players have all too often fallen short of their athletic prowess. Thus when Florida-based high school (and also club teams) took the court against out-of-state opposition, particularly of sufficient athleticism to avoid being “out-athleted,” the players from the Sunshine State would all too often finish second best. The culprits have tended to be repetitive including poor shot selection, failure to share the ball, bad clock management, poor foul shooting (a Floridian specialty) and the “usual’s” of turnovers and missed layups. Rebounding generally has been a Floridian strength in warding off these gremlins.
This year for whatever reason, matters on the court seemed to come together for the four teams mentioned below. Each of these teams had a season to be very proud of!
National team prominence
The link below is to the final Swish Appeal Prep Poll of Polls. In it you will see two Florida teams listed and by clicking on the four individual polls that comprise it, see the listing of those two plus the two others gaining recognition in one or two of the polls.
Neumann-Goretti High School wins Swish Appeal Prep Poll of Polls National Title – Swish Appeal
Miami Country Day School (MCD) finished the season 32-2 winning the Florida 3A title and in April the Dick’s Sporting Goods Nationals in New York City. One could say the Spartans were the masters of the one-point win taking down nationally ranked Elizabethtown (KY) at the Naples Holiday Shootout, Potter’s House Christian Academy late in the regular season and Gonzaga Prep (undefeated Washington State large school champs) in the Dick’s semi-final all by that slim margin. Another big win came over perennial California power Long Beach Poly in Naples. In the Dick’s final, MCD got revenge on Dillard for a loss late in the regular season and thus finished tied for fifth/sixth in the final Swish Appeal Prep Poll of Polls (see link above) being ranked in all four individual polls covered. Country Day’s only other loss (by 3) was to New York State largest class overall champion Long Island Lutheran in the Naples final. What made the Spartans so strong was having balance in scoring, not relying on one player to carry the team. Most critical was having a pair of future major division one guards in sophomores Channise Lewis and Kelsey Marshall and a tireless worker on the block in Stony Brook signee Ogechi Anyagalibo, who was the MVP for the Dick’s event.
Fort Lauderdale Dillard High School finished the season 31-2 winning the Florida 5A championship. its ninth in Coach Marcia Pinder’s 38 years at the school. The team lost in December at the Nike Tournament of Champions to a strong Desert Vista team out of Arizona and not again until the Dick’s final to Miami Country Day which the Panthers had beaten earlier in the season. Other quality wins included defeating Dallas Skyline (Texas large school runner-up) and South Shore (New York City Public School champions). Ranked in all four polls, Dillard finished tenth in the Swish Appeal Prep Poll of Polls (see link above). The Panthers combined physical athletic play with a willingness to share the ball as needed to secure victory. With two of its best players (Jacaira Allen and Destiny Frazier) returning for senior seasons look for Dillard to again be strong next year.
Potter’s House Christian Academy (PHCA) made its mark early in the season by its above mentioned victory over then national #1 Blackman High School. The team finished 38-5 winning the National Association of Christian Athletes championship and ranked in two of the four individual national polls. Besides Blackman, other noteworthy victories included wins over nationally ranked New Hope Christian Academy of North Carolina, cross town rival and 4A Final Four power Jacksonville Ribault and Massachusetts 2A champions Archbishop Williams High School of Braintree, Massachusetts. While Boothe was the dominant force for PHCA, she was surrounded by a collection of small, quick guards who could press but also hit the three-ball to give Boothe room to operate in the paint. With Boothe just a sophomore, PHCA should remain a factor on the national scene next year.
Pensacola Pine Forest High School finished the season a perfect 29-0 ranked #21 in the USA Today poll after winning the 6A Florida title. The team’s best wins were over Alabama power Shades Valley High School out of the Birmingham area and in the 6A final over Winter Haven. Pine Forest was small in height but played with great efficiency with its collective effort more than the sum of its individual parts. Indicative of the team’s play was its diminutive (5-0) senior point guard Ty Purifoy who played with non-stop energy. Unlike the above teams, Pine Forest was senior dominated and should be re-building next season.
Can 2015-2016 top this?
It will be hard to do. Most of the time one team catches the attention of the national polls. Two would be a lot, let alone three or four (as this past year). For this to happen a lot of out-of- state teams would need to be defeated by Florida schools and for the most part those match-ups never even take place due to financial, travel or game count limitations.