It Comes Down to This Moment

Boy’s Varsity Basketball is on the road to a third straight state final four appearance
Prior to the beginning of their game against Florida Christian, the Bulldogs gather one more time as a team before heading onto the court.
Prior to the beginning of their game against Florida Christian, the Bulldogs gather one more time as a team before heading onto the court.
Camila Kouri

On Tuesday night, Riviera’s Varsity Boys basketball team put themselves on the cusp of a third-straight final-four appearance after a decisive 67-53 victory over the Hialeah Educational Academy Bulldogs in the regional semifinals.

Several key players stood out in the Bulldog’s triumphant performance. Junior Dante Allen led the way on both sides of the ball with 22 points, four assists, and three steals on the night. Alongside him, junior Gustavo Guimaraes and freshman Jeremy Jenkins cleaned up on the glass, combining for 19 rebounds. In addition, freshman and sophomore brothers Myles and Mason Fuentes combined for 25 points, 13 assists, and six steals to back up Allen’s performance. Even though it may seem easy for the Bulldogs, many athletes credit their return run to states to their preparation and chemistry developed outside of games.

The Bulldogs feel that this season has been different. Several players think winning a state title has given opposing teams more hunger to beat them. “I say this year we have more of a target on our backs since teams want to take down the team that won last year,” said Allen.

In reaction to the mounting pressure, the Bulldogs have changed their preparations for their return run to states. Throughout the season, the Bulldogs have faced several nationally ranked teams outside of Florida, exposing them to more challenging competition. “(We’ve played) Prolific Prep, which we unfortunately lost to, and Dynamic Prep, a team from Texas,” Fuentes said. Many competitors feel that these games give them a different feel from the competition in Miami. “When we went to the Bahamas, we got to play Lu High, another top 5 team in the country. There’s a lot more competition outside Florida and here in Miami, and it prepares us for another run at a state title,” said sophomore Fernando Romero.

However, the Bulldogs sense that their chemistry off the court is the key to success throughout the season. The defending champs gather daily at 4:45 in the morning during the season to practice for upcoming games. While these practices are brutal on players, many athletes feel they have helped the team and formed a bond between players. “We go at each other’s heads in practice, but it’s a brotherhood, and everyone after practice is cool with each other. I think that’s what separates us from other teams,” said Fuentes.

Heading into the end of regionals, this team believes they have what it takes to win back-to-back state titles for the first time in school history. Even though games get harder from here on out, the Bulldogs still have one main focus in mind. “We want to have the same mentality to try and win every game. We have a driving force since every team is gonna try to give us their best shot,” said Allen.

The Bulldogs will aim to earn their third-straight state final-four appearance on Friday at Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale. With their firm focus and determination, the Bulldogs are ready to face any challenge.

UPDATE: The Bulldogs advanced to the state final four for the third straight year after beating Westminster Academy 75-60 on Friday night. The Bulldogs will face Berkeley Preparatory School on Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the right to play in the state championship. If you want to watch the game, visit the link provided: 2024 FHSAA 3A Boys Basketball Semifinals #1 Riviera Prep vs Berkeley Prep – 02/28/2024 | Live & On Demand ( Go Bulldogs!

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