LAKELAND -- Sometimes motivation isn’t enough.
Norland’s girls had every reason to play inspired basketball Thursday afternoon at The Lakeland Center facing virtually the same Orlando Edgewater team that denied them a state championship a year ago.
But poor shooting and lack of early defensive execution sent Norland on the same path to defeat, losing 60-45 to the Eagles in a Class 6A state semifinal.
“This was totally unexpected,” Norland coach Carla Harris-Curry said. “We just didn’t perform well and didn’t make plays when we needed to defensively or offensively.”
The Vikings (29-4) never led and trailed by as many as 22 points as they came up short in their bid to win their third state championship since 2009.
Norland shot only 29 percent from the field and allowed Edgewater to score 36 points in the paint - 22 of which came in the first half.
The Eagles (26-6), who will try to win their second consecutive state title when they play Fort Walton Beach Choctawatchee in the final Saturday at 1:30 p.m., shot 51 percent as a team.
“I really can’t say why this happened, but I know somewhere in the middle we weren’t on the same page,” Norland senior guard Brittany Dinkins said. “We knew what we had to do. But saying it and doing it are two different things sometimes.”
Dinkins tried her best to get Norland back in it in the second half scoring 10 of her team-high 21 points in a two-minute stretch late in the third quarter. Her drive to the basket to start the fourth cut Edgewater’s lead to 48-38.
But that was as close as Norland would get.
“Our defensive goal usually is to keep a team under 35 points for the game so for them to have 32 in the first half shows that was really poor defense by us,” Dinkins said. “Coming out of the half I tried to give us some kind of momentum, but we made poor decisions on defense still.”
The Vikings failed to convert on two ensuing possessions and lost their momentum after a three-pointer by Markeema Crawford.
Edgewater dominated inside in the first half, but hurt Norland with its ability to shoot long-range as well. Nyala Shuler went 3 for 3 from three-point range and finished with 23 points overall.
The Eagles went 5 for 9 overall from three.
Norland shot 2 for 14 from three with Dinkins making the only two on consecutive possessions during her late third quarter surge.
“We knew their players would hit some key shots and we had some defensive breakdowns,” Harris-Curry said. “Defensively we didn’t follow the plan we drew up as a staff. We just did not play well and we picked a poor time to play poor defense.”
EDGE (26-6): Shuler 23, McCullough 17, Clark 4, Lovejoy 4, McMillan 5, Crawford 7. NOR (29-4): K. Roberts 6, N. Roberts 11, Dinkins 21, Ford 3, Lovett 4. Half: E 32-17. Three-pointers: Shuler 3, Dinkins 2, McCullough, Crawford. Fouled out: Clark. Rebounds: Shuler 14. Assists: McCullough 6. Steals: Lovett 3. Blocks: N. Roberts, Shuler 2.
Barrington Christian announced it has hired Tomaris Wooten as its new football coach.
Wooten was the offensive coordinator at Champagnat Catholic most recently and coached at Belen Jesuit and Parkway Academy prior to that.
Belen senior runner Avery Lopez signed with Florida State University on Thursday.