By Gary Curreri
Pompano Beach Middle School girls basketball coach Brittany Harvard knows firsthand what it means to put together a perfect season and in the process be MVP for county champion.
Harvard recently guided her team to a 14-0 season and the Broward County Middle School championship with a convincing 65-29 victory over Pembroke Pines Charter at Stranahan High School.
It was a sense of déjà vu for Harvard who was MVP in 2003 for the Bengals when they finished 13-0 and won the county championship.
“The focus level was unbelievable,” said Harvard, who went on to star at Blanche Ely High School and then play at Benedict College in Colombia, SC. “To see a middle school team focus like that was unbelievable. The year we won, the whole team wasn’t focused – maybe a couple, maybe the starting five. To have a strong 10 girls just lock in and focus on one goal, it was amazing.”
Bengals eighth-grader Ja’Leah Williams scored a game-high 34 points as Pompano Beach handed Pembroke Pines Charter its only loss of the season in 14 games.
Along the way, Pompano Beach abruptly halted two-time defending county champion Dillard Middle School’s 41-game win streak in the semifinals, 60-17. Dillard had lost just once to Westglades in the county semifinals the year the school opened three years ago. They are 53-2 during that span. The victory over Dillard this year avenged a 33-32 setback in last year’s semifinals that ended Pompano’s season.
Pompano Beach lost to William Dandy three years ago in the second round of the playoffs and is 37-2 during that span.
“We beat Dillard this year so they knew how we felt last year, but worse,” said Williams, 14, of Pompano Beach, who has been on the team all three years. She averaged 36 points a game this year.
“We were thinking about that one point loss all season, since the first practice,” said Williams, who averaged 36 points a game this year. “At the beginning of the championship game I knew we had it. We had more skill than they did.”
Williams scored five of her game-high 34 points in the first quarter and dropped in another 13 in the second quarter as the Bengals led 33-12 in the title game. Williams added nine in the third and seven in the final quarter to earn MVP honors for the game. She also dished out five assists, had six steals and five rebounds in the contest.
Bengals’ eighth-grader Mikihia Lumsdon and seventh grader Mya Kone each added 10 points, while seventh graders Michiyah Simmons and Zaria Blake had 6 and 4 points, respectively.
Pompano Beach also went 12-0 in 1993, this season marking the third time in school history that they were perfect.
“The one thing that stood out was their dedication and their working hard,” Harvard said as she reflected on the season. “They were always determined to learn, even what they already knew. They stayed determined to work on their craft – both strengths and weaknesses – from the time we lost last year all the way up to now.”