High school basketball in South Florida is having a moment, as an abundance of talented young players are plying their skills in a highly competitive district.
And that talent was on display at the Gulliver Holiday Tournament, which Gulliver has been hosting the weekend before Christmas for eight years.
The reputation of the tournament has grown each year as it has become an increasingly competitive event that focuses attention on some of the best high school teams in the state as the basketball season heats up.
And for the first time in its eight-year history, Gulliver won its own tournament as the undefeated Raiders thrashed the Miami Beach Hi-Tides 82-45 in the final. Raiders’ 6-foot-7 senior Tony Sanders was named the tournament’s MVP.
Gulliver reached the final after defeating a tough Coral Gables Cavaliers team 85-69 in the semifinal.
Teams in this year’s tournament included: Archbishop McCarthy Mavericks, Coral Gables Cavaliers, Coral Reef Barracudas, Gulliver Raiders, IMG Ascendors (Team White), Miami Beach Hi-Tides, Naples Lely Trojans, and North Miami Beach Chargers.
Gulliver head coach Gary DeCasare said he was proud of his team’s effort against a competitive field.
“The tournament gave us an opportunity to show what our team is made of — a bunch of hard-working, talented and smart basketball players,” Coach DeCasare said. “I am really proud of the guys’ effort and toughness, especially as we head off to the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.”
Coach DeCasare was referring to the 30th annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, perhaps the most prestigious high school tournament in the country. The tournament, in which over two dozen current NBA players have played in the past, features nearly 80 teams coming from Florida, Virginia, Texas, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere.
Gables head coach Tico Govea, whose Cavaliers won the third place game over IMG Academy 85-69, congratulated Gulliver on a great tournament and said that he was pleased to see the national recognition South Florida basketball is getting.
“We had a Georgetown assistant coach meet with a couple of our players after the game,” he said. “There has been a steady stream of D-1 coaches visiting our players this season and is great to have these kids getting a chance to show they can play at the next level.”
Gulliver plays in Class 4A, perhaps the most competitive class in South Florida with two defending state champs — Stranahan (6A) and University School (5A) — along with a trio of competitive teams in Hallandale, North Broward Prep and Pine Crest.
Gables and Miami Beach play in a very competitive Class 7A along with Columbus, Krop, Miami High, Palmetto and Coral Park.
The tournament marks the halfway point of the high school basketball season, with the road to the state championships starting with regionals beginning in early February.