Despite the state championship medals hanging around their necks, what happened in Lakeland still doesn’t feel real for Boca Raton seniors Rachel Levy and Grace Marko.
Only two weeks earlier, the Bobcats won the program’s first state title in a blur: an inbound pass from Marko, with Levy underneath the hoop, a buzzer-beating shot from sophomore second-team All-Area pick Audrey Ramsey and a dogpile near the bench all occurring in a matter of maybe 10 seconds.
“It still seems like a dream,” Marko said. “We think about Audrey’s play, her shot and that whole moment over and over. It just seems too good to be true sometimes.”
The two Boca Raton seniors led the way for the Bobcats’ title, leading the team on the court and off, and after becoming two of the best girls basketball players in Palm Beach County, they are the Post’s Large Schools Girls Basketball Co-Players of the Year.
Levy was the Post’s Player of the Year as a junior after Boca Raton fell to Vero Beach in double overtime in the state finals, and she said then that the Bobcats would “get the ring” her senior year.
The Harvard signee led Boca Raton with 14.5 points a game and seven rebounds a game, and she led the Bobcats in points in both the state semifinal against Orlando-Olympia (16 points) and the title game against Miami-Ferguson (13 points).
Marko, a Boston College signee like Small Schools Player of the Year Milan Morris, scored nine in the semifinal and 11 in the final, and she was second on the team in points (13 a game), third in rebounds (three a game) and second in assists (2.6 a game).
Levy and Marko’s numbers were actually lower this year than they were in the past. They each had two seasons where they averaged more points: Levy averaged 18.6 points her sophomore year and 16.7 as a junior, while Marko averaged 15 a game as a freshman and 13.7 as a junior.
But coach Nhu Nguyen attributes that to having a more balanced team. Four other players averaged more than five points a game, with Ramsey joining the two Players of the Year in double digits. Nguyen added that Levy and Marko did not always rack up points because the Bobcats had wrapped games up by the fourth quarter.
“They only play, out of the 32 minutes, I would say they only play 20 minutes, all season long,” he said. “So that’s contributing to their lower stats.
“Another key contributor is Hannah (Pratt) and Audrey became scorers for us, as well, so they’re actually sharing the ball more.”
Although their stat lines might not jump out, Levy and Marko’s impact and legacy at Boca Raton has not gone unnoticed.
“You wouldn’t really think, coming from a high school girls basketball team, you’d receive that, but we have a really good community base,” Levy said. “A lot of people know who we are and what we do, and it’s really cool to get their gratitude.”
Esther Balogun, Atlantic, Sr., Forward: Balogun averaged a double-double for the Eagles, bringing in 10 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Kiera Brown, Palm Beach Gardens, So., Guard: Brown, who was a first-team selection as a freshman, had a splendid sophomore campaign, averaging 11.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game.
Kiara Felder, Lake Worth, Sr., Guard: One of the area’s top scorers, Felder averaged 19 points per game for the Trojans.
Sydney Jones, Wellington, Jr., Guard: After one of the hottest starts in the county, Jones settled into a groove and averaged 19.3 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Chandler Lawson, Park Vista, Sr., Guard: Despite the Cobras’ disappointing season, Lawson still had a solid senior year. She finished the season averaging 14.2 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals per game.
Leticia Luna, John I. Leonard, Sr., Guard: One of Palm Beach County’s best all-around players, Luna has a spectacular senior year, averaging 16.2 points, 7.3 assists, 7.2 steals and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Elisabeth McCray, Suncoast,, Sr., Forward: McCray averaged a double-double each game as a senior, finishing the year with 15.8 and 11 rebounds per game.
Ra’shara Simmons, Palm Beach Lakes, So., Guard: Simmons broke out this season, leading the Rams and scoring 17 points, racking up 7.2 rebounds and 5.4 steals per game.
Megan McCants, Jupiter, Jr., Guard
Recilia Nonnombre, Santaluces, So., Guard
Kyandra Poitier, Palm Beach Gardens, Fr., Guard
Hannah Pratt, Boca Raton, Jr., Forward:
Audrey Ramsey, Boca Raton, So., Guard
Carly Salter, Jupiter, Jr., Forward
Ronita St. Felix, Palm Beach Lakes, Sr., Guard
Brooke Steinbauer, John I. Leonard, Sr., Forward
Atlantic: Valencia Holcomb; Boca Raton: Kelsi Mingo; Dwyer: Cheyenne Robinson; John I. Leonard: Aja Gregg; Kim St. Louis; Lake Worth: Markadala Theophile; Palm Beach Central: Jordia Jones, Jada Powell, Najia Woodie; Palm Beach Lakes: Ronisha St. Felix; Park Vista: Brooke Bogatz, Cayla Polsky; Santaluces: Brittney Wright; Whitney Wright; Seminole Ridge: Aneeshea Cason; Suncoast: Britney Brown, Jamia Moore, Clare Whalen; Wellington: Camryn Debose, Jillian Duncan, Mia Jones, McKenzie Steurer; West Boca Raton: Alexa Petrone, Spencer Shore.
Coach of the Year
Nhu Nguyen, Boca Raton: Nguyen took the Bobcats to the state playoffs for the third straight year, but this time Boca Raton came back from Lakeland with a state title —the first in program history.