At this point, Miami Norland will help Dillard’s Jordan Wright pack as he goes off to play football for Kentucky.
For the second consecutive season, the 6-6 Wright proved the one player Norland and its five-time state champion coach Lawton Williams had no answer to in losing to the Panthers in the regional finals.
This time Wright delivered heartbreak to the Vikings by muscling his way to 10 of his game-high 30 points, including a ferocious left-handed dunk in the pivotal third quarter as Dillard, the 2015-16 Class 6A state champion, took a step closer to pulling off the feat in Class 7A with a 66-54 victory in the Region 4-7A final at Norland.
“In the first half we came out kind of flat, too laid back,” Wright said. “I missed too many free throws in the first half, so I knew I had to put the team on my back in the second half. Norland thought they could beat us running. They were doing a lot of talking on social media, but I told my teammates don’t say anything, just worry about the game on Friday.”
Dillard (26-4), which is heavily favored to win its second consecutive state title, advances to face the Vanguard-Choctawhatchee winner in the 7A state semifinals on March 2 at The Lakeland Center.
Norland came in riding a remarkable six-year undefeated streak at home and battled back from a 10-point second quarter to pull to within 35-33 at halftime before Wright decided he had seen enough.
As has become his calling card, Wright delivered the spark Dillard needed to put away another tough opponent. Wright scored 10 points to help the Panthers outscore the Vikings 17-7 in the third quarter, including a dunk off a drop-off pass from Bryce Oliver (13 points) with 1:50 left in the third quarter for a 50-39 lead and then a tip-in to follow up a Robert Johnson miss to push the lead to 52-40 with 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
Sam Griffin led the Vikings with 15 points. Kennith Rolle added 10 points.
Norland was seeking payback after losing 59-47 to Dillard in the Region 4-6A final last season, ending its four-year run as state champions (2012-2015). Wright led the charge for the Panthers with a game-high 19 points. Having dispatched Norland, its biggest hurdle, Dillard went on to win the Class 6A state title, its sixth under Darryl Burrows.
Dill (26-4): Wright 30, Gadson 1, Gray 7, Johnson 3, Sellers 2, Brantley 2, Coddington 8, Oliver 13. Nor (22-7): K. Rolle 10, Griffin 15, Brown 7, Raye 5, O. Rolle 7, Jones 4, Crump 6. Half: Dill 35-33. Three-pointers: K. Rolle 2, Griffin 3, Raye 1, O. Rolle 1, Oliver 1, Gray.
▪ Region 4-9A Final — South Miami 59, North Miami 55 (OT): The Cobras are going to state for the fourth time in five seasons after surviving an overtime thriller at home against the Pioneers.
In the waning moments of overtime and the score tied at 55, South Miami senior center Latravian Glover blocked what would have been a go-ahead layup for the Pioneers and ran back down the court for a two-handed dunk to put the Cobras ahead for good with 18 seconds remaining.
All four of the Cobras’ playoff games in last year’s run to the state semifinals were decided in overtime, so for the core of seniors who had been part of that experience — including Glover and senior guard Zack Dawson — this was not new territory.
Dawson finished with a team-high 22 points and eight assists in the victory, helping the Cobras overcome a sluggish first half to surge back into the lead in the third quarter. Glover finished with a double-double — 12 points and 12 rebounds — after only scoring two points in the first half.
“All year long, we always talk about the fifth quarter. This was our first game in the fifth quarter, and we did a great job,” South Miami coach Robert Doctor said. “We were resilient at the end. We kept going, and Zach and Latravian came through.”
The Pioneers’ bid to upset the Cobras and make it to the state tournament for the first time since winning the program’s lone state title in 1960 was led by junior guard Donte Innocent, who finished with 25 points and four three-pointers.
Innocent had a chance to win the game for the Pioneers with a floater as time expired in the four quarter, but the shot went off the back of the rim and sent the game into overtime.
SM: Dawson 22, Arnold 9,Tyler 8, Ferguson 6, Wright 2, Glover 12. NM: Gulliaume 2, Bazan 2, Cassamajor 6, Williams 2, Munestime 1, Simeus 9, Innocent 25, Laurent 8. Half: NM 22-17. Rebounds: Glover 12, Dawson 7. Assists: Dawson 8. Three-pointers: Innocent 4.
▪ Region 4-9A Final — Wellington 82, Coral Springs 62: In a clash of the 8A state champions of the past two seasons, host Wellington dominated early to knock out the defending champ Coral Springs. The game was a rematch of last year’s region final in which Coral Springs won in double overtime.
The Colts (20-8) didn’t score their first field goal until midway through the second quarter.
“We just got off to a real slow start, and you can’t do that against a team like Wellington,” Coral Springs coach Devin Barta said.
Trent Frazier, an Illinois commit, led Wellington with 30 points. Jelani Heard led the Colts with 20 points.
The Wolverines (27-3) will face Kissimmee Osceola or Orlando Oak Ridge in the state semifinals at The Lakeland Center on March 3.
Well (27-3): Frazier 30, Chen-Young 18, Williams 12, Rosiario 2, Peart 2, Medor 13, Toledo 5. CS (20-8): Lowry 10, Fleurizard 17, Heard 20, Moore 7, Lucien 5, London 3. Half: Wellington 41-22. Three-pointers: Frazier 3, Heard 2, Chen-Young, Lucien, Fleurizard.