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.
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.”