Miami Norland senior guard Janet Harrison sat down after Friday’s game and let the tears come out.
A long journey back from a devastating knee injury didn’t end the way she or the Vikings hoped Friday following a heartbreaking 41-39 loss to Naples Barron Collier in a Class 6A state semifinal at The Lakeland Center.
“We just kept pushing and just wanted to win,” said a tearful Harrison, who tore her ACL and sustained a fracture during a travel ball game this past July and returned to Norland’s lineup in the regional playoffs. “We just fell short.”
Norland junior guard Brittney Huell pulled Norland (19-10) within two points with 30 seconds remaining. Norland couldn’t make the most of three chances to either tie or win the game, however.
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Huell tried to feed the ball into center Tyana Williams. The pass was high and bounced off her hands and was stolen by Barron Collier forward Olivia Ferrucci.
Barron Collier, however, missed a free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity, and Norland collected the rebound. Harrison shot a three-pointer that missed off the rim.
The Cougars (27-4) failed to put the game away again as Emily Browne missed a pair of free throws.
But again Norland couldn’t capitalize as guard Ashley Bostick missed on her driving shot and time ran out before the Vikings could put up another attempt.
Norland coped with injuries to Harrison and a few other players during a tough road back to the state tournament.
Still, the Vikings reached Lakeland for the fourth consecutive time and sixth time in seven years.
“We felt good with our effort, but I think I stopped talking late in the game, and we weren’t as aggressive as we should have been,” said Harrison, who has a 3.5 grade point average, plans to study medicine in college and hopes to do so at Florida State.
Norland felt confident against Barron Collier after beating the Cougars in a regular-season game on Jan. 17.
“Barron Collier really didn’t change much from what they did the first time we played,” Norland coach Carla Harris said. “They mixed it up offensively really well, and we were just hesitant at times.”
Norland jumped out to an early 8-1 lead and withstood a couple of Barron Collier rallies. The Cougars’ full-court pressure in the third quarter forced several Norland turnovers and sparked a 12-0 run that gave them a nine-point lead.
“We had a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter, and we got our chances there at the end,” Harris said. “We just didn’t take advantage of them.”
NOR (19-10): T. Williams 16, Clarke 3, Huell 8, Harrison 9, Jean-Baptiste 3. BC (27-4): Jakella Davis 11, Ferrucci 10, Holmes 6, Jakia Davis 4, Browne 2, Gelabert 6, Guitard 2. Half: NOR 24-22. Three-pointers: Harrison 3, Jakella Davis 2, Gelabert 2, Ferrucci, Clarke, Huell. Rebounds: T. Williams 9. Assists: Browne 4. Steals: Ferrucci 5. Blocks: Harrison 3.
State girls’ basketball finals
When: Through Saturday.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland.
Admission: $10 per session; Parking: $8.
Friday’s results — Class 8A semifinals: Orlando Colonial 66, Flagler Palm Coast 42; Miami High 63, Boca Raton 51; Class 6A semifinals: Pensacola Pine Forest 50, Winter Haven 44; Naples Barron Collier 41, Miami Norland 39; Class 5A semifinals: Land O’ Lakes vs. Jacksonville Paxon, inc.; Fort Lauderdale Dillard vs. Bradenton Southeast, inc.
Saturday’s schedule — Class 7A final: Palm Beach Lakes vs. Apopka Wekiva, 10:05 a.m.; Class 8A final: Miami High vs. Orlando Colonial, 1:35; Class 6A final: Pensacola Pine Forest vs. Barron Collier, 5:05; Class 5A final: 8:35.