Norland faced one of its biggest obstacles Tuesday night on the road to a potential third consecutive state championship.
A young and talented Mater Academy team led by sophomore guard Dylan Frye took it to the reigning champs for nearly the entire contest.
The Vikings’ experience in such tight games helped it persevere in a 64-60 victory over the visiting Lions in a Region 4-6A semifinal.
Norland (24-5) will take on Pembroke Pines Charter Saturday in the regional final and attempt to reach Lakeland for the third consecutive season. The game will be played at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined by Pines Charter.
"Mater did an excellent job and followed their game plan against us," Norland coach Lawton Williams III said. "Our size is what we have to utilize to win these games. But we have to play smarter. We made dumb play after dumb play. But it’s good that we still have practice tomorrow."
Mater Academy (24-5), a team with only one senior and comprised mostly of sophomores and juniors, took the lead early in the second half 36-33 with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
Frye finished with 20 points and hit four three-pointers to keep Mater in the game and cut Norland’s lead to 50-49 with 5:06 remaining in the fourth.
But led by its taller frontcourt, Norland didn’t let Mater regain the lead and finally separated behind strong efforts on defense and on the boards from Dewan Huell, Dalvin Roberts and Tyrell Williams.
Zach Johnson finished with a game-high 21 points and five assists and six rebounds.
Huell posted eight rebounds and finished with 13 points, while Williams had 10 points and three blocks. Roberts finished with five points, and helped create turnovers that led to transition baskets.
"We didn’t play our best, but all of my kids have been in these games before," Williams said. "We have eight kids that played important minutes in the past couple of years."
The Spartans had lived all season by a frenetic, blinding upbeat pace and dropping truckloads of three-point bombs andTuesday night would be no exception.
Thanks to a big night from Danny Duarte and CJ Fisher, Pace (20-10) eventually outwilled a Raiders team that worked hard to keep the pace slow but finally wore down at the end turning the ball over multiple times and allowing the Spartans to advance with a 78-69 victory and move on to the Region 4 final on Friday night where they will travel to Broward County to take on Coral Springs Charter.
Pace trailed nearly the entire first three quarters before taking a one-point lead at the very end of the third. The swing moment came with just over three minutes left when, with the scored tied at 60 when Duarte, who finished with 22 points and had five of Pace’s 15 three pointers, dropped one from beyond the arc to put his team up for good. Ten seconds later, following a steal, Josh Ferguson buried one from beyond the arc to make it a six point lead, followed by another Duarte three 20 seconds later to make it 69-60 and end the issue. Fisher was the game’s leading scorer with 24 points including three three pointers.
The loss ended the brilliant career for Ransom’s Trey Mourning who certainly did his share, pouring in 25 points while pulling down seven boards and blocking two shots. The Raiders, who were looking for a return trip to the state final four, finished 21-11.
Abel Seda led the way for the Colts with 26 points and sealed the game in the final moments with several key free throws. Antoine Levarity added 16 points for Calusa Prep in the win.
A strong start gave the Colts a firm grip on the lead for almost the entire game and powered them to a 16-point lead into the forth quarter. But the Victors cut the deficit in half with an 8-0 run to begin the fourth and Miami Christian’s Kevin Rodriguez led the charge, scoring 10 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter to keep them in the game.
With 1:30 remaining, moments after the Victors’ aggressive press defense forced a costly turnover, Miami Christian guard Eric Penate drained a three-pointer to cut the Colts’ lead to 55-53.
That was as close as Miami Christian would come, however, as Seda made all 10 of his free throw attempts in the final minute and a half of play to put the game out of reach. Overall, he went 18 of 19 from the free throw line.
Trailing by three points in the final seconds, Champagnat’s Jaron Cornish missed a 3-pointer on the right wing with five seconds remaining in the game as the Lions fell to host Grandview Prep 54-51 in the region 4-2A semifinal.
“We thought that if they went to zone, we would shoot for three,” said Champagnat coach Daniel Serrano. “They went to man and we ran something. It didn’t work out.”
Cornish led Champagnat (17-5) with 13 points. Bradley Nairm followed with nine points for the Lions.
The Lions’ season ends in the regional semifinal for the second consecutive season.
“We left too many points off the scoreboard,” said Serrano. “The missed free throws and the put backs, that was the difference.”
Grandview Prep (23-5) held a 48-44 lead midway in the fourth because of their patience offensively in the half court. The Lions had few answers for Pride junior guard Jordan Coblin who scored a game-high 25 points for Grandview Prep. Many of his points came off of transition, driving to the basket and moving without the ball on back screens for layups.
Champagnat cut the deficit to 48-47 on a 3-pointer at the top of the key by Oswald Parker with 3:11 to play.
Down the stretch, Coblin and Jamal Palmer converted on their free throws to lead Grandview Prep to the win.
Champagnat was able to keep the game close with points off of offensive rebounds by Parker, Nairm and Kenneth Nwachukwu.
Junior guard and future UCONN Husky Prince Ali led the Lions with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. Westwood Christian (20-8) had no answer for his ferocious drives to the basket.
The Lions entered the third quarter with a 10-point lead. Heading into the fourth, that lead was up to 26. Sagemont outscored Westwood Christian 22 to six in the pivotal third period thanks to strong defense from senior forward and future UCLA Bruin GG Goloman.
That set the tone for McArthur, which overcame 35 points by Miami Beach freshman guard Kenneth Rolle and delivered an overtime win for its home fans in a Class 8A regional semifinal.
McArthur, which opened in 1957, advanced to the regional finals for the first time in school history. The Mustangs (20-6), who were led by Jean’s 16 points, will play host to South Miami on Saturday night.
Miami Beach finished its best season since 1969 at 23-6.