It took a breakout game from Sagemont 6-5 forward Jordan Cooper for Connecticut commitment and four-star recruit Prince Ali to get his revenge against two-time defending Class 6A state champion Miami Norland.
Cooper tied for a game-high 18 points and hit a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter as Class 3A state power Sagemont (4-0) held off a third-quarter rally by Norland (3-2) and defeated the visiting Vikings 58-46 on Tuesday.
“My teammates stepped up big time,’’ said Ali, who finished with 13 points. “This is the team I wanted to beat and my teammates knew that. Norland is a two-time defending state champions and they defeated me in the playoffs. It was payback.”
Ali was on the losing end last season when he led Pines Charter to the Region 4-6A semifinals against Norland. Ali came up big by tying Norland’s Zach Johnson for a game-high 29 points but the Jaguars lost 80-59.
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This time Ali got the help from Cooper to put away the Vikings.
Norland fell behind early and played from behind the entire game but pulled to within 40-34 with 5:16 left before Cooper calmly took two steps back and nailed a 3-pointer to push the lead to 43-34 with 4:45 left.
“We game-planned well,’’ Cooper said, “If I can get out and run, I think my teammates will find me. Prince opens up things for everyone. There are always going to be open shots for somebody. We definitely needed this. It is a confidence-builder for us. We have a tough schedule ahead.”
Johnson won the statistical battle 18-13 in his highly anticipated rematch with Ali and provided one of the game’s biggest highlights with a 360-degree dunk off a steal from Ali.
Dalvin Roberts’ layup with five seconds left gave Norland a 64-63 victory against Evans in the Breast Cancer Awareness Classic on Saturday, but there would be no comeback this time for a team looking to reestablish its state championship defensive identity and offensive precision.
“Sagemont is smarter than us right now,’’ said Vikings four-time state champion coach Lawton Williams. “It’s my fault, and I’m going to fix it. We got back in the game with our pressure. A lot of things we didn’t convert on but we will be fine. We figured we would be further along with nine kids back, but we just have to keep working.”
Norland (3-2): McKnight 8, Z. Johnson 18, D. Roberts 5, Jean-Baptiste 6, Huell 4, T. Williams 5. Sage (4-0): Ali 13, Crawford 11, Jurks 3, Cooper 18, Kirby 6, Goleman 6, Penny 1.Half: Sage 23-16. Three-pointers: Rebounds: T. Williams, Z. Johnson 6. Assists: Johnson 3.