Norland girls’ basketball coach Carla Harris was counting on her team to respond in a pressure-packed situation.
On Wednesday night at the Miami High gym, the Vikings didn’t disappoint their coaches.
A series of successful defensive possessions in the closing minute allowed Norland to hang on for a 34-32 victory over the host Stingarees in a GMAC semifinal.
“Thirty minutes prior to us arriving at today’s game, we put in some new looks on defense we wanted to use against them,” Harris said. “The biggest thing I’m proud of from our group tonight is how they executed our game plan.”
The Vikings (17-6), ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 7A, snapped Miami High’s four-year streak of winning the GMAC tournament and advanced to the final for the first time since 2013.
Norland will travel to Ferguson, ranked fourth in the state in Class 9A, on Friday night to take on the Falcons at 7 p.m. in the GMAC championship game as it tries to win its first county title since 2011.
Ferguson advanced to its third consecutive final after it defeated Hialeah in the earlier semifinal Wednesday.
Tia Bailey made two free throws with 44.5 seconds left in the fourth to give Norland a 33-32 lead.
Miami High (13-6) had two chances to retake the lead, but missed each time.
Freshman Daria Whitley missed an open jumper that Geraldine Seide rebounded. Seide then drew a foul with 19.9 seconds left, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw situation.
Guard Isabella Perez missed a running one-handed shot and Seide again took the ball away in the paint and drew another foul. This time, Seide hit 1 of 2 free throws. Miami High missed one more shot before time expired.
Bailey finished with nine points and four assists. Chrystal Pressley finished with seven points and nine rebounds.
▪ Ferguson 70, Hialeah 61: After leading by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, Ferguson needed to hold off a Hialeah rally to secure its third consecutive trip to the championship round.
The T-Breds (17-7), who were once again playing without injured star guard Taylor Jones, pulled to within eight points with 1:20 left. But Yaire Rodriguez hit a pair of free throws to help the Falcons (18-7) put the game away.
Senior Diamond Celestine paced Hialeah with a game-high 31 points.
Junior guard Natalia Pineda led Ferguson with 22 points, while Rodriguez had 17 and junior Sheslanie Laureano had 14 points.
The Falcons played without sophomore forward Cheyanne Daniels, who suffered a knee injury during Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over Booker T. Washington.
Daniels was seen walking on crutches before the game and watched from the bench. Ferguson coach Gabriel Lazo said Daniels would undergo an MRI on her knee on Friday.
FER (18-7): Laureano 14, Gonzalez 4, Y. Rodriguez 17, Kingwood 2, Pineda 22, A. Rodriguez 11. HIA (17-7): Manhertz 9, Berries 13, Celestine 31, Sweeting 5, Brown 3. Half: FER 33-21. Three-pointers: Laureano, Pineda 2, Manhertz, Berries, Sweeting, Celestine 2.
NOR (17-6): Bailey 9, Rotan 2, Jackson 2, Williams 10, Edwards 1, Pressley 7, Seide 3. MHS (13-6): Weldon 8, Bucknor 2, Wilson 1, Rachel 21. Half: NOR 17-16. Fouled out: Whitley. Rebounds: Pressley 9. Assists: Bailey 4.