Playing great defense isn’t limited to the football field at Miami Central High.
The boys’ basketball team also can swing the outcome of a game in its favor quickly when it turns its defense up a notch as it did Wednesday night to beat host South Miami 60-46 in a GMAC tournament semifinal.
Trailing by 10 points early in the third quarter, Central put together a 29-4 surge to take control and finish off the Cobras.
“At halftime, our guys saw how angry I was because we weren’t defending very well,” Central coach Maurice Troupe said. “I challenged them, and they took the initiative and played better defense and got the victory.”
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Senior 6-5 guard Anthony Wilson filled the stat sheet with another balanced effort for Central, ranked No. 3 in Class 7A in the latest FABC/Source Hoops state poll. He finished with 14 points and game-highs in rebounds (12), assists (six) and steals (eight).
Wilson and fellow 6-5 senior Kenny Turnier, who had a team-high 16 points, keyed the second-half comeback with several steals that led to fast-break transition scores.
South Miami’s guard tandem of Ezacurias Dawson (game-high 18 points) and Keith Stewart (15 points) pushed the Cobras, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class 8A, to an early lead. But the duo was held to only 13 combined points in the second half.
The Rockets (18-4) will try to win the GMAC title for the second consecutive season Friday when they take on Miami Norland at 7 p.m. at South Miami.
Central eliminated Norland in last year’s tournament in the semifinal round. This season, the Rockets moved into the same district as the four-time defending Class 6A state champions and Norland has won the first two meetings.
Troupe said his team respects what a formidable obstacle the Vikings present.
“It’s a blessing just to be able to compete in back-to-back GMAC finals,” Troupe said. “Coach Williams and his group at Norland do a great job, and they’re used to being in this position. This is our second year in a row and we’re still new to a lot of this, so that will be the challenge.”
CEN (18-4): Wilson 14, Cooper 6, Turnier 16, Nunnally 7, Louis 12, Pierre-Louis 2, Thomas 2, Gibson 3. SM (17-7): Dawson 18, Stewart 15, Arnold 2, Castro 4, Small 4, Davis 3. HT: SM 25-17. Technical: Central. Three-pointers: Dawson, Davis, Louis 2. Rebounds: Wilson 12, Assists: Wilson 6, Steals: Wilson 8, Blocks: Wilson 3.
▪ GMAC semifinal — Norland 68, Miami High 36: Another balanced effort led the Vikings (20-4), ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 6A in the latest FABC/Source Hoops rankings, to a lopsided victory over the short-handed Stingarees (13-7).
Tyrik Waite continued Norland’s torrid shooting in the tournament so far as he hit four of the Vikings’ eight three-pointers for the game. Waite finished with a game-high 18 points and had four assists as Norland took complete control in the second half.
Jonathan Andre finished with 10 points and Dewan Huell totaled nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Vikings hopes to win their second GMAC title in the past three seasons after being ousted from the tournament by Central last season.
“All I want is for our kids to stay focused on winning the game, and we just can’t show too much since we know we still may play them two more times after Friday,” Norland coach Lawton Williams III said.
NOR (20-4): Rolle 9, Jean-Baptiste 8, Andre 10, Waite 18, Huell 9, Waugh 6, Wilkerson 2, Morris 4, West 2. MHS (13-7): Mera 9, Sierra 11, Davila 2, Arce 6, Jean-Jacques 1, Suarez 4, Shannon 1, Francisco 2. HT: NOR 27-15. Three-pointers: Waite 4, Rolle 2, Mera, Arce 2, Suares, Jean-Baptiste, Andre. Rebounds: Huell 11. Assists: Foster, Waite 4.