- By Adam Lichtenstein Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Audrey Ramsey’s 3-pointer slid through the basket at the Lakeland Center, and Boca Raton’s 2016-17 season ended in a dogpile. It was the last game for stars Rachel Levy and Grace Marko.
With the two 6-foot seniors, who were The Post’s Co-Players of the Year, graduating, it was assumed the Bobcats would take a step back after the pair led the team to three consecutive trips to the state playoffs.
Instead, Boca Raton (17-5) is once again among the top teams in Palm Beach County, coming in at No. 2 in this week’s rankings as the district tournament draws near.
“People were saying, ‘Boca’s not going to be as good this year,’ ” sophomore captain Grace Alfieri said. “But once we saw the team’s first tryouts, I knew we could do this; we just have to prove people wrong.
“It was nerve-wracking at first, but I’m pretty sure we proved everyone wrong and we’re better than people expected.”
Alfieri and fellow sophomore Kelsi Mingo have played big roles in keeping the Bobcats competitive. As freshmen, the players split time as the team’s fifth player on the court. Now, they’re both starters and are averaging 18 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game combined.
“I know that I can do it,” Alfieri said. “I fought for (a starting spot) so hard last year; I feel like this year is easier in a way because I know that I earned it.”
Two of the Bobcats’ upperclassmen, Ramsey and forward Hannah Pratt, have also taken on larger roles this year.
Although Ramsey is not an official captain, she plays a key role on the court as the top scoring threat and the team’s point guard. She leads the team with 16.7 points, three assists and two steals per game.
Pratt is second in points (11.4 per game) and leads the team with 2.1 blocks per contest.
“I knew I needed Hannah to step up big-time because in the last three years, she has been a role player,” Nguyen said. “She was never our first scoring option or second, but third, fourth and fifth sometimes. I knew coming in, I needed her to mature as a senior — the only senior — to lead. And she stepped up.”
The Bobcats have a tough stretch of games to end the regular season, taking a road trip to Fort Pierce Central (10-6) tonight, playing crosstown rival and fifth-ranked West Boca Raton (16-3) on Friday and finishing the year with Palm Bay-Heritage (20-3).
Next week, they’ll be the favorites in the District 10-9A tournament (Boca went undefeated in district play) before trying to make a run back to Lakeland.
“Everybody on this team, except our one freshman, has been there before, so it kind of gets rid of the jitters that we usually have during the playoff season,” Pratt said. “But also, we can’t be overconfident.”