Let’s take it back to the 2020 7A Regional Final between Western and Miramar: in what was more of a defensive battle than offensive, with seemingly every possession playing an impact, the Patriots ended up pulling off the close victory, 37-35. They’d advance to the Final Four and ultimately win the state title.
But with a vengeance in the air and a desire to improve, this year’s matchup between the two featured a different victor.
In another close game vs Miramar, the Wildcats were to be victorious, 64-58, inching them closer to making a Final Four birth if they defeat the winner of Coral Gables/Columbus on Monday.
The Wildcats had dropped their previous two meetings against the Patriots heading into the 7A semifinal contest. In the eyes of head coach Mike Hardy, getting over the top in the third matchup was thanks to the “team ball and working on defensive concepts for the last few weeks,” he told 305 Sports.
Team ball was undoubtedly the way they played, with four guys on the Wildcats roster reaching double figures in scoring. Senior Gary Adams led the way with 12 points.
For the seniors of this team, the message was clear: they didn’t want to play their final high school game on Tuesday night.
“All the seniors knew that we had to step up and be leaders to take this team far,” senior wing Matthew Robinson Jr. said. “The team knew that to win we have to give it all we got and take no days off and just work hard.”
The season-ending loss to Miramar idolized the importance of this one for everyone involved in the program. That said, the ability to reel in the win was worth so much more.
“It meant a lot,” Robinson said. “It was time to get payback. This game meant a lot to me like it was the state finals.”
Still, despite the memorable victory, Western hasn’t lost sight of what’s truly important: a state title.
Having to wait until Monday to play their Regional Final game due to Coral Gables’ late appearance in the tournament because of COVID-19 protocols, the practice plan has been the same as always: “watch game film and try to exploit other team’s weaknesses,” Hardy said.
If everything does go the Wildcats’ way, a 2-0 run in Lakeland, FL would signify the program’s first basketball state title. “We are going to shock the world and everyone who doubted us in the beginning and during the season,” Robinson said.