Blazing A Trail To An Historic Title
Silver Trail Mustangs Gallop Off With Middle School Girls' Basketball Crown
By Gary Curreri, Special Correspondent, Sun-Sentinel
Bernadette Devaney made her presence felt early in the championship game.
The Most Valuable Player in the Broward County Middle School Girls' Basketball Tournament on Jan. 20 could taste how close her team was to the title.
"I've wanted this since the sixth grade, and I have heard people say this is the most amazing feeling, and I wanted to have that feeling," said Devaney, who spearheaded the effort as Silver Trail won the first title in that sport in school history with a 49-32 victory over Deerfield Beach.
The eighth-grade standout scored 10 of her 12 points in the first quarter as the Mustangs jumped out to a 12-0 lead and held off a late charge by the Junior Bucks to cap a 12-0 season. She also contributed seven steals and six assists in the matchup at Piper High in Sunrise.
"We wanted to get out early because when we played Walter C. Young earlier in the season, we got down early and fought back to win," Devaney said. "We didn't want that to happen against Deerfield Beach, so we just tried to keep the pressure on. We weren't going to let anybody stop us."
The Mustangs were focused from the outset.
"We knew it was the championship," Devaney said. "It felt good [to be named the MVP], but I felt everyone deserved it because we all contributed on and off the court."
Chris Raden and Olivia Davis have coached Silver Trail together for eight years. The team lost in the first round of the playoffs two years ago and in the second round of the playoffs last year.
"This is very cool," said Raden, whose team had to get past Walter C. Young, 36-34, on a last-second shot by Bryanna Lloyd in the semifinal. "They have a lot of dedication and a lot of talent."
It was the team's closest game of the season. The Mustangs' average margin of victory in its other games was 37 points.
Davis said that when Devaney arrived as a sixth-grader, the team became an immediate playoff contender.
"When she came here, it changed everything," Davis said. "The team just fed off her. This is one big moment."
The Mustangs led after the first quarter, 16-4, and opened the second period on a 9-0 run as Lloyd had six points during that stretch.
A 3-point basket by Deerfield Beach's Morreante Williams with 33 seconds remaining in the first half provided a bright spot, but Silver Trail's Madelynn Corazza connected on a layup with 21 seconds remaining to put the lead back up to 27-7.
Silver Trail extended its advantage to 40-15 in the third quarter before Deerfield Beach's Emily Williams converted back-to-back baskets in the closing seconds of the period.
The Mustangs led 42-18 on a basket by Atkins with 5:40 remaining in the game before the Mustangs coaches emptied their bench.
Deerfield Beach managed to trim the deficit to 42-31 with 2:28 remaining as Celina Wojacik closed out the 13-0 run with a layup off a steal.
"We wanted to give every girl a chance to play and see what it feels like to be in this type of setting," Davis said.
Lloyd, who finished with a game-high 19 points and 14 rebounds, closed out the contest with three baskets and Atkins added a free throw for the final margin.
Deerfield Beach coach Melissa Rodriguez, in her third year with the Junior Bucks, was pleased with her team's effort this season.
"My team kept battling and they fought to the end," said Rodriguez, whose team finished the season 11-1.
Wojacik and Emily Williams paced Deerfield Beach with 10 points each. Emily Williams had seven of her points in the third quarter.
"Each year, they have gotten tremendously better," Rodriguez said. "They play basketball 24-7. They eat and sleep basketball. I have to say I am really blessed in that I don't have to worry that they are not practicing on the weekends and that they aren't giving effort."
The Silver Trail Middle School girls' team is composed of Atkins, Samantha Provenzano, Nicole Zebegret, Corazza, Adriana Leguizamon, Viktoria Sanchez-Smith, Darriel Mincy, Elisheva Diaz, Alana Stanback, Devaney, Lloyd and Kelsey Angus.
The Deerfield Beach Middle School girls' team is composed of Caliyah Patterson, Laromire Baptiste, Wojacik, Jane Alcock, Jalin Moye, Destiny Graham, Morreante Williams, Bri'nesha Powell, Shaquira James, Emily Williams, Courtney Lee, Joy Parrish and Olivia Hanifin. The team is coached by Melissa and Ernesto Rodriguez.