Trenton & Hawthorne play Monday in the FHSAA Girls Basketball Class 1A state semifinals
By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught
Three Gainesville area girls basketball teams are playing in the FHSAA Girls Basketball Final Four this week.
P.K. Yonge is returning in Class 4A (Wednesday), while Hawthorne is making just its second trip all-time and first since 2014. Trenton is back in the state semifinals for the first time since finishing as state runners-up in 2016.
Hawthorne and Trenton will play in the Class 1A state semifinals on Monday. If they both win, they will face each other for the state title.
Top-ranked Trenton defeated Branford, 53-46, to advance last Tuesday. The visiting Buccaneers (22-8) had lost the previous three games this season to the Lady Tigers (25-3) by an average margin of victory of 33.7 points, including a 76-41 thumping of the Bucs in the 1A-District 7 championship game.
“I felt like Branford came in hungry and they had a great game plan for us,” said Trenton coach Bryant Frye, whose team lost to Madison County in the 2016 title game. “I think playing four times against each other you can pick up tendencies.”
Two weeks ago, Trenton built a 13-point lead after the first quarter in the district championship game. However, this time visiting Branford built a 7-point lead after the opening quarter.
“We needed to pick up our intensity more on the defensive end,” explained Frye. “It was a good game and I’m glad we pulled it out.”
Senior Taniah Bowers led the way with 22 points, followed by Standrea McHenry with 14 points. Sophomore Samarie McHenry led the team with 14 rebounds.
Over the past five years, Trenton girls’ basketball has a record 123-15, four straight district championships, four Regional Finals and now two state Final Four appearances.
The Lady Tigers will play Port St. Joe in the Class 1A state semifinals on Monday at noon.
The Sharks (19-9) defeated Jay, 50-43, in the Regional Finals to advance for the second consecutive year. Port St. Joe lost to eventual state champion Madison County in the 2016 state semifinals, the same year that the Tigers lost to Madison County in the state championship game.
Frye said that “it is a different feeling this time than last.”
“Having been there and knowing what we know, I think we will be more prepared and less giddy about making it,” he noted. “The girls know what is at stake and I think a lot of them (including myself) believe we are here to finish what we started three years ago. They feel we left something on the State Final game the last time and we want to redeem ourselves.”
Port St. Joe, which is led by 8th-grader Jae Lenox at 17.6 points per game, is the only returning state semifinalist in Class 1A.
“They are very well coached, young and athletic,” said Frye. “They kind of play our style of basketball. They were there last year and have that overall experience, but I hope that we can handle their enthusiasm. It should be a great match up.”
Joining Trenton on Monday will be the Hawthorne Hornets, coached for former Gator & Hornets’ football coach Cornelius Ingram.
Hawthorne, which was ranked fourth in the state by MaxPreps, defeated previous No. 2 Lafayette (Mayo), 55-50. The ‘home’ Hornets (22-4) rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to sting the ‘visiting’ Hornets and prevent Lafayette’s third consecutive trip to the state semifinals.
“I told them before the game that no matter what let’s try to stay even-keeled and continue to plug away whether we are up or down,” said Ingram. “We could have folded, but our kids kept plugging away. We got some big stops, and hit some key shots, to put us over the top.”
The home court advantage certainly helped.
“It was a great environment,” said Ingram. “I thought our kids used the environment to their advantage. It was a great team win against a great basketball team.”
Up next is Holmes County (Bonifay), which defeated Paxton, 63-60, in the Regional Finals to advance to the Final Four for the second time in the past three years.
The Blue Devils (21-6) got to the Elite 8 last year, but they lost at Paxton to finish 27-2. This is the fourth consecutive year that Holmes County has won over 20 games.
“We had an 80-game winning streak going until 2017 when we finally lost so these players have experienced a lot of winning,” said Holmes County coach Devon Miles.
They’ve also fought through a lot of adversity this year to get back to the state semifinals.
“We have dealt with more injuries this season than all the others combined,” said Miles.
Both teams are similar in the fact that they are both very young.
Holmes County does not have a senior in its starting line-up. Junior Kenzie Nelson leads the team at 18.8 points per game, followed by sophomore Akiela Farrow at 12.6 ppg.
For Hawthorne, junior Antania Mason averages 13.8 points per game, followed by sophomore Jayla Williams (12.2) & 8th-grader Kentavia Hagins (10.6).
“We’re looking forward to building something special for a long time,” noted Ingram. “This is huge. It hasn’t happened here in a while. It’s a great feeling. If we take care of business and stay consistent with our game plan, we have a legitimate chance.”
Monday, Feb. 25 – Class 1A state semifinals
Holmes County (Bonifay) vs. Hawthorne, 10 a.m.
Port St. Joe vs. Trenton, Noon
Tuesday, Feb. 26
Class 1A state championship game, 2 p.m.
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