Miami Norland coach Lawton Williams III could have boasted plenty about what he and the Vikings accomplished Saturday.
But that has never been his style.
Nonetheless, if there was ever a more gratifying season for Norland in boys’ basketball, this might have been it.
Norland began the season with the challenge of replacing 10 varsity players from last year’s state championship team — six graduates, four transfers.
And still the Vikings’ steady pattern of success reached a milestone never before achieved as they became the first Miami-Dade County team to win four consecutive state championships after beating Gainesville 53-46 in the Class 6A final at The Lakeland Center.
“This is probably one of my closest teams,” Williams said. “These guys that stayed on this team and kept fighting and believed in our program — I’m very proud of them.”
Norland (23-8) is the sixth school in state history to win at least four state titles in a row, joining Malone (five in a row), Jacksonville Arlington Country Day (five), Fort Lauderdale Dillard (four), Port St. Joe (four) and Daytona Beach Seabreeze (four).
The Vikings also joined Miami High as the only schools in Dade to win six titles in a decade. Norland also moved into second place behind Miami High on the Dade all-time list for state titles.
Once again, star 6-10 junior center Dewan Huell led the Vikings as he totaled 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
But it was more than Huell.
It was players such as David Jean-Baptiste and guard Tyrik Waite, who each had 12 points, leading Norland through a tough schedule after taking on larger leadership roles.
“This is pretty special for us,” Jean-Baptiste said. “All year people thought Pines Charter would beat us and we wouldn’t even get to the final four. We had to prove people wrong.”
Williams stood alone — albeit briefly — among Dade’s coaching elite after Saturday’s win, his six state titles the most for any coach in the county’s history.
“I really don’t think about any of the records,” Williams said. “Maybe one day when I’m 75 years old, I’ll say, ‘I was pretty good.’ But I just think about these kids.”
Only a few hours after Williams secured his sixth crown, Pompano Beach Blanche Ely coach Melvin Randall was celebrating his sixth state title overall and fourth with Ely after his Tigers won the Class 7A championship Saturday. Randall won two others at Deerfield Beach.
Williams is the first to win as many at one school.
“I think it’s the attention to detail that keeps us consistent,” Williams said. “We prepare for this starting in the spring. Our coaches know what I want and have been with me all 12 years I’ve coached this team. It’s all about the consistency of what we do.”
One of the things that separates Williams and Norland from many other programs statewide has been an ability to win championships with squads comprised mostly of players from the school’s area.
“It’s hard to get kids from outside of the area. I coach too hard and I’m not going to baby them,” Williams said. “There are a lot of kids that don’t want to be coached. They want to be pacified. The day I do that is the day I should quit. I always tell the kids to play for your brother. If you live 50 miles away from each other, it’s not that easy to feel like your teammate is your brother.”
So is Norland, which has only one senior on the roster, already focused on making it five in a row?
Huell echoed his coach’s statement after Friday’s semifinal win when Williams said winning a state title annually is expected at Norland.
“You look at other teams like Lake Minneola and Ed White, they had teams that brought back a lot of players and they didn’t even get to state,” Huell said. “We’re going to keep working hard to get back here and win it again next year.”
G (28-4): Smith 21, Oates 1, Bibb-Boyd 7, Williams 2, Wilson 4, Fradella 3, Scott 3, Gainey 2, Pugh 3. NOR (23-8): Huell 18, Jean-Baptiste 12, Waite 12, Foster 2, Andre 7, Waugh 2. Half: NOR 27-16. Fouled out: Foster. Three-pointers: Smith 3, Waite 2, Bibb-Boyd, Fradella, Scott, Pugh. Rebounds: Smith 10. Assists: Bibb-Boyd, Williams, Waite, Williams 2. Steals: Smith, Oates, Jean-Baptiste, Foster 2. Blocks: Huell 6.