Norland didn’t care how ugly the game played out Saturday afternoon.
The only pretty sight it was interested in was a close-up view of another boys’ basketball state championship trophy.
In a game that featured a combined 47 turnovers and a 5-0 first-quarter shutout, Norland rode a stellar defensive effort to beat Pensacola Pine Forest 42-30 in the Class 6A state final at The Lakeland Center to secure its second state championship in a row.
“That game set basketball back about 15 years,” Norland coach Lawton Williams III said. “We came up with a defensive game plan, and we followed it to the letter. On the offensive side, it wasn’t pretty, but it worked out this time.”
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The Vikings (26-5) added to what has been an impressive eight-year run for their program by winning their fourth state title during that span. Combined with two state championships each by its girls’ basketball and football teams, Norland has now won eight state titles since 2002.
With four state titles, Williams, who completed his 10th season as Norland’s coach, moved into a tie with former Monsignor Pace coach Mark Lieberman for third on the all-time list of state championships for a Miami-Dade County coach.
Only former Miami High coaches Vince Schaefer and Shakey Rodriguez have more with five each.
“Lawton kept the guys focused, and they played for him. He’s an amazing man, and we’re so happy he’s our coach,” Norland athletic director Ira Fluitt said.
This title had added meaning for the Vikings, who dedicated their season to their coach. Williams dealt with the pain of losing his mother, Bobbie, who died of a heart attack this past June.
“Everybody knew how special this was for us because we wanted to win it for coach,” Henry said. “We had to seize the moment.”
Norland’s ability to perform well no matter what tempo games took during the playoffs keyed its championship run.
Junior guard Zachary Johnson was in foul trouble with three in the first half, but recovered to finish with a game-high 15 points. Several Norland players led the way in vital categories such as Tyrell Williams, who had six blocks, and Dalvin Roberts, who had a team-high four assists and five steals.
The Vikings entered the game having scored 70 or more points in its past three wins after only having surpassed that output twice all season. On Saturday, Norland had to go back to its defensive roots.
“That comes from chemistry,” Henry said. “We don’t look so much at the statistics. We look more at what we have to do to get the victory.”
The Vikings shut out Pine Forest (30-2) in the first quarter and held the Eagles to 10 points in the first half. But the Vikings led only 5-0 after the first quarter even though they forced 13 Pine Forest turnovers and had seven steals.
Norland led throughout, finally extending its lead to as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t pretty, and I know how the average fan probably viewed the game,” Williams said. “The good in the first quarter was that we had the five [points]. The bad part [also] was that we had the five.”
Pine Forest shot a dismal 8 for 51 (15.7 percent) for the game and made only 2 for 25 in the first half. Norland finished with 16 steals and forced 27 turnovers.
PF (30-2): S. Johnson 11, Wilson 4, Glover 8, Finkley 3, Z. Williams 4. NOR (26-5): T. Williams 7, Mike 5, Z. Johnson 15, Roberts 1, McKnight 6, Henry 2, Deceus 2, McCrea 3, McDaniel 1. Half: N 17-10. Three-pointers: Johnson, Finkley, Williams, Mike, McKnight. Rebounds: S. Johnson 13. Assists: Roberts 4. Steals: Roberts and Walton 5. Blocks: T. Williams 6.