For the first time since Brandon Knight reigned supreme in the South Florida area, Pine Crest will be advancing to the state final four.
Before clinching a state final four birth and a trip to Lakeland, Florida, the Panthers had to first get past North Miami Beach. Only holding one loss this season — against Westminster Academy by just 5 points — Pine Crest (14-1) became used to gaining victories by big margins. Their biggest wins include a 74-46 route past defending 3A state champions Saint Andrew’s and a 77-62 victory over Regional 4A champion Pembroke Pines Charter.
With a team like North Miami Beach facing a hot Pine Crest squad, it may be easy for the Panthers to play nonchalantly; however, that wasn’t the case.
“Regardless of who we played, we stepped on the gas from the get-go and were able to maintain our lead throughout the rest of the games,” senior captain Leo Ghiloni told 305 Sports.
Along with the team’s five seniors, Pine Crest is starred by the brotherly duo of Amen and Ausar Thompson, who have been rising in the national rankings recently and have been deemed one of the biggest stock risers in the country.
The Thompson twins combined for 40 of the team’s 69 point total in their 32-point victory over NMB, keeping the consistency of the highly touted prospects alive.
To pair up nationally ranked players like Amen and Ausar with a strong senior core of leadership in Ghiloni, Ben Brodsky and Eros Carpio, Pine Crest looks to bring hardship onto any opponent.
“This is a group of guys who have dreamed to be in the position we’re in right now and who constantly work hard and push each other in practice,” Carpio said.
Pine Crest has made it evident that countless hours of hard work were needed to pull off this accomplishment. Last season, they garnered a 20-7 record and captured the 4A District 13 title, but fell short against Gulliver Prep in the regional semifinals.
“We’ve all been grinding for a while since October, and most of us for our whole careers,” Ghiloni said. “The basketball team is pretty much always the last group of people to leave campus. The main of our core players have been hooping together since eighth grade and winning states has been our goal from day one.
“Our players have been committed to each other as well as to winning states over the past four years, which is why we’ve had so much success this year.”