- Faith & Family
The Norland Vikings boys’ basketball team has won back-to-back Class 6A State Championships with a 42-30 defeat of the Pine Forest Eagles (Pensacola) last Saturday at the Lakeland Center. It’s the fourth for Viking’s head coach Lawton Williams in his 10-year stint at Norland, and adds to the other seven state titles the burgeoning athletic powerhouse has claimed in the last 11 years. The girls’ basketball team and the football team have earned two titles each in that time.
“[Winning back-to-back] was our goal,” Williams said. “We’d never done that before.”
While the game was sloppy, with 47 combined turnovers, Norland’s defense kept them ahead the entire game and allowed them to eventually pull away from the Eagles.
Scoring was low on both sides of the game, including a 5-point first quarter where Norland (26-5) shutout Pine Forest (30-2).
“We have growing pains,” Williams said of his team that does not start any seniors.
The team motto ‘keep pushing’ may have been the key ingredient in this game for Norland who struggled offensively; the Vikings averaged almost 80 points in their prior three wins.
Junior shooting guard, Zach Johnson, the game’s leading scorer with 15, fulfilled his role of bringing the energy that kept Norland just ahead of the Eagles in each quarter.
“I have to make sure I punch the team in their throat,” Johnson said, figuratively. “But we’re conditioned and we’re disciplined.”
Williams, who had become used to winning by large margins, did not let up on his team.
“We had to keep putting it in the meat grinder and keep working on the little things throughout the entire year,” he added.
The year that called for so much attention to nuances has also been difficult for Williams on a personal level with the loss of his mother, Bobbie, back in June.
“It’s been a mentally taxing year,” Lawton said, “but that’s why we said ‘keep pushing.’”
Norland became just the fourth Miami-Dade County school to win consecutive state titles, joining Miami High, Monsignor Pace and Northwest Christian.
South Miami falls in Class 8A championship
South Miami (28-4) who had an impressive year, including the Greater Miami Athletic Conference win, fell just short of its first state title 44-34 against Hagerty High School (Oveido) in the Class 8A championship game. Dropping an eight point halftime lead from the three-point onslaught brought on by the Huskies (27-5), the Cobras headed back to Miami-Dade County disappointed and with the team’s third runner-up trophy.
“Everything has to be earned not given,” South Miami head coach, Robert Doctor.
By Akilah Laster
Miami Times writer