CONCHS OUTLAST ‘CANES ON THE HARDWOOD AS REGULAR-SEASON BASKETBALL CONCLUDES

Noah Myers (5) takes a shot for Coral Shores.

On Jan. 30, Coral Shores made the trip to the Southernmost City to play a game which had been canceled earlier in the season. The county rivals were a surprisingly great matchup, with Tony Simons’ experienced ’Canes hoping to beat Dexter Butler’s young but hungry Conchs in their second matchup this season. On Dec. 21, Key West dug themselves out of a first-quarter deficit to beat the Hurricanes in Tavernier with a little help from a sea of crimson-clad fans who traveled to cheer on their Conchs. 

Tuesday’s game would prove to be a battle of endurance for both teams. Key West pulled ahead with an early lead, catching Coral Shores off-guard with their fast-paced offense and forcing the ’Canes to regroup and dig themselves out of a 14-10 deficit in quarter one. 

And that they did. The Hurricanes hustled and muscled their way back to cut the lead to just one at the half. By the end of quarter three, the ’Canes had claimed the lead by two. With just under seven minutes left in the game, the score was knotted up and remained that way until just shy of the four-minute mark when the ’Canes ran out of wind. 

Key West took the lead and then some, using the energy of a packed Bobby Menendez Gymnasium to help them cruise to a 60-49 victory. Two Conchs registered double-doubles – James Osborne had 23 points and a dozen rebounds while DeMarcus Deroche had 11 points and a dozen rebounds of his own. Deroche also denied the ’Canes multiple shots, adding 7 blocks to his stats. Kameron Roberts scored 14 with 3 steals, David Aviles scored 7 with 9 rebounds and Tramane Scott added 4 points and 10 rebounds. Coral Shores’ Donovan Thiery had a team-high 16 points with AJ Johnson adding 8, Isaac Holmes scoring 6 and Noah Myers and Keegan Fish adding 5 each. 

Key West went on to play Coral Reef on Feb. 1, losing and evening their record to 10-10. Deroche proved to be a phenom, scoring 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the week. Osborne put up 19 and Roberts added 11 more in the 66-62 loss. For their final game of the week, the Conchs took on the Cobras of Boyd Anderson the following night, losing 58-36. Deroche had the team high with 13 points while Leandro Batista added 9 and Osborne scored 6. The Conchs started their postseason journey Feb. 6 against Miami Sunset in the FHSAA 4A District 16 quarterfinals (results not available at press time). If Key West prevails in the quarters, they will face top-seeded Gulliver in the semis.

The Lady Conchs played just one game last week after Schoolhouse Prep canceled on them. They hit the road to play Mater Lakes Academy on Jan. 30 to a 77-39 loss. The Lady Conchs are still in the hunt for their first win, and a victory over the No. 2 seed in their district, Gulliver Prep, would make their season. The game tipped off at Gulliver on Feb. 5 in the quarterfinals, but the Raiders emerged with a 55-35 win.

Somerset Academy Silver Palms is proving to be a thorn in the side of two Keys teams. Marathon lost to the Stallions on Jan. 29, 76-42, then Coral Shores took the fall two nights later, 75-47. Both teams will need to find a way to conquer the Stallions in order to move ahead in their district brackets. In the Jan. 29 loss, Marathon’s Daeshawn Holmes scored 15 points and registered an incredible 8 blocks. Adrian Cruz scored 14, 9 of which came on three-pointers, and Xavier Grant added 9 of his own. 

On Jan. 31 the Fins lost at Downtown Doral, 49-48. Cruz had the hot hand for Marathon in that game, scoring 19 points, but Holmes was focused on the Fins’ defense, pulling down 20 rebounds and blocking Doral three times while adding 8 points. Yaniel Garcia added 10, Josh Koler scored 8 and Grant put up 7 points in the loss. 

The Fins prevailed in their final game of the week at home against Shelton Academy. Cruz scored 19, Jesus Gonzalez scored 13 and Holmes added 12 with 7 rebounds in the 59-27 win. Marathon began its postseason run with momentum, downing the Everglades Prep Panthers 60-43 on Feb. 5 and earning a chance to take on top-seeded Riviera Prep in the quarterfinals the following night (results not available at press time).

The Lady Fins lost on the road to Gulliver on Jan. 29, scoring just 11 points, 7 of which came from Kayesha Christian, in the loss. They turned it around the following night at Florida Christian, defeating the Patriots 48-36. Elena Eubank had 18 and Marti Kilbourne scored 17 in the victory. Their final game of the week was at home against Shelton Academy Feb. 1. The Dolphins beat Shelton in a lopsided 40-7 matchup, with Eubank earning the team-high 13 points. Kilbourne added 7 to her stats and Daysi Williams and Christian scored 6 each. Marathon played Westminster Christian on Feb. 5 in quarterfinal action, falling victim to a barrage of three-point shots by the Warriors in a 48-31 loss. 

The Hurricanes suffered a pair of tough losses last week, first against Key West, then to a deep and talented Somerset Silver Palms on Jan. 31. Donovan Thiery scored 22 points, with Keegan Fish adding 13 and Noah Myers scoring 4. AJ Johnson, Alex Maladis and Jeremiah Burton each scored 2 in the 60-49 loss. The ’Canes needed to dig deep for their quarterfinal matchup on Feb. 6; they faced Silver Palms once again on the road (results not available at press time).  

After losing two straight games for the first time this season, an injury- and illness-plagued Coral Shores girls basketball team got their groove back on the road against Scheck Hillel Academy on Jan. 29, destroying the Lions 61-38. Senior Brooke Mandozzi had a game-high 26 points while Grace Leffler added 15. Head coach Jarrod Mandozzi feels confident about his team coming together in the late season, explaining, “Offensively it was beautiful basketball all night. We got a great game from Grace Leffler, which can really be a key for us. We have a strong interior with this group that gives teams a lot of challenges, and with Grace playing more wing for us, she is such a difference maker when she is on.”

Mandozzi credited Leffler for “playing strong with the ball and not settling for low-percentage shots,” saying Leffler complemented Brooke Mandozzi with Niveah Howard and Gabby Thomas as additional offensive threats. “When we get 15 points out of Grace, we’re tough to beat,” he said. 

The ’Canes looked good heading into districts, with Alex Burson pitching in 7 points and Mandozzi, Leffler, Caylee De Pauw and Thomas on rebound duty. Abby Vogt and Makayla Hahn had 7 assists each, proving that the Coral Shores bench is both deep and talented. The Lady ‘Canes began their postseason with a bang, obliterating Keys Gate 48-11 on Feb. 5. The win against the Knights will pit Coral Shores against Somerset South Homestead Feb. 7 in the semifinals (results not available at press time).

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.