Tuesday night the Taravella Trojans faced off against the Coral Glades Jaguars at Coral Springs High School in the first round of the 8A District 11 playoffs. The teams had faced off twice during the regular season and Taravella took both games, one by a comfortable 20-point margin and weeks later a slim victory by just two points at Coral Glades. The Trojans came out victorious in this one with senior Anthony Biggs leading the way to a 60-47 win, Taravella will face the Stoneman Douglas Eagles tonight at Coral Springs High.
Early on the Jaguars were able to contain the Trojan’s perennial perimeter threats in seniors Anthony Biggs and Marcus Casessa, the pair was held to just 5 points in the first half, well below their season averages. However, role players filled this gap in the offense and the Trojans were able to get out to a 12-6 lead after one, led by Chris Pierre with eight first quarter points. Jaguars guard Julian Levy was called for two early fouls and was forced to take a back seat during the first half of play due to his foul situation.
The Trojans came out firing on offense in the second quarter. Isiah Sanchez and Diomani Fernandez both found their stroke from deep, raining threes on the reeling Jaguars defense. Taravella jumped out to a commanding 29-8 lead late in the second quarter thanks to miscues on offense for the Jaguars that led to easy transition baskets for Taravella’s guards.
“We got some good traps in the corner, anticipated some passes that they were going to make. Got some steals got some fast break, that’s what we love to do; we love to run. When we’re on the fast break we’re tough to stop,” Taravella head coach Chris Benanti said.
Late in the quarter Coral Glades went on a 9-0 run to draw the deficit to just 12 at halftime. David Fungchung led the way for Coral Glades scoring in the paint and at the free throw line. At half the Trojans maintained a 29-17 and the game seemed very much in their hands.
Fungchung was able to pick up where he left off in the third quarter, pouring in seven points in the quarter but the supporting staff was not there for him, and Taravella extended their lead to 17 points heading into the fourth quarter. Biggs and Casessa were able to find their way in the third and got out on the break, beating the Jaguars transition defense time after time. Sanchez once again connected from outside in the third quarter and Coral Glades failed to find a spark to return to a competitive state before the final quarter.
Early in the fourth the Jaguars cut into the lead significantly with hustle points on fast breaks and offensive rebounds. The deficit was cut to eight and the Trojans called timeout leading 48-40. Ultimately the Trojans were able to regroup and held the ball for the majority of the fourth quarter, hitting their free throws when fouled and extending their margin of victory.
Apart from this game potentially being the final game of his four-year varsity career and an opportunity to take down a district rival, Julian Levy also had history on his mind heading into the night. Levy came into the game just eight points short of joining the elusive 1,000-point club and on the second of a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter he accomplished this feat. With another five points on the night Levy took sole possession as the all-time leading scorer in Coral Glades history with 1,005 career points
“It couldn’t have happened to a better individual. [He’s] definitely the true heart and soul of this team and me personally I couldn’t ask for anything more as a first year coach than to have a floor general like Julian Levy,” Coral Glades head coach Jack Stawicki said.
Despite holding Biggs and Casessa well under their season averages, Taravella was able to ride their role players to a 13-point victory and to a matchup against district rival, Stoneman Douglas.
“We’ve got some talent other than Biggs and Marcus, Chris Pierre did a real good job getting to the basket. We just came together as a team, it’s a team effort,” Benanti said. “Taravella is not just two guys, these other guys stepped up when Biggs and Marcus weren’t on tonight, so I think that’s a testament to the team that we have.”
With the 60-47 win, the Taravella Trojans move on to face off against the Eagles and the Jaguars begin their offseason early, and begin preparing for next season’s campaign.