Miami Central’s football team has brought home plenty of championships in recent years.
The Rockets’ basketball team is now one win away from claiming a prestigious trophy for itself.
With several of the school’s football coaches cheering them on, Central upset three-time defending state champion Miami Norland 60-57 in a GMAC semifinal Tuesday night at Miami High.
Senior guard Phillip Saunders’ 18 points and eight rebounds, and junior forward Anthony Wilson’s 12 points, six steals and four assists led Central (19-4), which opened the game on a 15-2 run and took the lead for good before the end of the third quarter.
Central advanced to Thursday’s championship round and will play Miami Beach for the GMAC championship at 7 p.m. at the Miami High gym.
Miami Beach beat Miami Southridge in the other semifinal Tuesday to advance to what is believed to be its first GMAC finals appearance.
“I spoke with the guys after school and they were excited for this one because they beat us at the start of the season,” Central coach Maurice Troupe said. “That’s a great [Norland] program over there. We seized the opportunity again.”
Norland (16-8) countered Central’s early run and led by as many as six points in the third quarter thanks largely to its defense and strong play from center Dewan Huell, who finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Central turned the tide with its own aggressive defensive play, and forced the Vikings to turn the ball over leading to transition baskets.
Saunders went 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final minute as Norland could not get a solid look at the basket on its final two possessions.
“These guys are starting to understand they are pretty good,” Troupe said. “We’re trying to bring back what this school once had in basketball. It’s just a matter of them believing in themselves.”
▪ GMAC semifinal — Miami Beach 68, Southridge 56: The Hi-Tides (14-10) advanced to the finals, led by Zachary Brown’s 24 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocks.
With the score tied at 39, the Hi-Tides took the lead for good in the third quarter on an 8-0 run comprised of four successive dunks by Brown.
Miqueas Melendez and Kennith Rolle had three steals each on the defensive end and helped hold off the Spartans (17-7) down the stretch.
“It’s tremendous for us just to be in this final,” Miami Beach coach Jacob Shaw said. “These performances are due to our tough schedule. We’ve played plenty of athletic teams all season around the state.”
CEN (19-4): Saunders 18, Turner 2, Nunnally 3, Wilson 12, Wilkerson 4, Occi 3, McFadden 2, Wynn 6. NOR (16-8): Williams 7, Jean-Baptiste 14, Andre 2, Waite 3, Huell 15, Waugh 5, Jones 1. Half: CEN 36-35. Three-pointers: Jean-Baptiste 4, Waugh, Wilson 2, Saunders 2, Nunnally, Occi. Rebounds: Saunders, Huell 8. Assists: Wilson 4. Steals: Wilson 6. Blocks: Wilson, Huell 3.