Deja vu was starting to set in for Boca Raton’s most experienced players.
Forward Rachel Levy and guard Grace Marko lost in the state semifinals as sophomores and dropped a heartbreaker to Vero Beach in double overtime in the state title game at the Lakeland Center last season.
So as Saturday’s Class 9A state championship against Miami-Ferguson got into the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Falcons led by two points, and things started feeling familiar.
“That hit a lot in the fourth quarter,” Marko said. “Especially the last two minutes, down by two and then tied.”
But something different happened in Lakeland on Saturday. Marko inbounded the ball to sophomore Audrey Ramsey with 1.5 seconds left on the clock, and Ramsey drained the game-winning 3-pointer to give the Bobcats a 45-42 victory and the program’s first state championship.
The win is the last time the two will wear Bobcat uniforms, ending the most successful run of any class in team history. Before Levy and Marko arrived on campus, Boca Raton had never played in a state title game.
“It was the last chance for Rachel, Rachelle (Mueller) and I,” Marko said. “If we lost — that wasn’t an option. You know, three time’s the charm.”
Boca Raton coach Nhu Nguyen said the turning point of the season came after a brutal midseason stretch, when the Bobcats lost four of six games in late December and early January. He said Levy made him a promise after that stretch.
“Rachel sent me a text, and she said — I still have it — she said, ‘Coach, I apologize for the way I played. I’m going to take this team to state, and I can promise you that.’ ” Nguyen said. “And she kept her promise.
“I hope I’ll get more that are like them,” Nguyen added, tearing up. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come across kids like that.”