Sonic Drive-In Player-of-the-Game for Feb. 25 – Dre Lawrence (Hawthorne)

The Sonic Drive-In Player-of-the-Game for Tuesday, February 25, was Dre Lawrence of the Hawthorne boys’ basketball team.

The junior scored a team-high 18 points as Hawthorne advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals with a 69-59 win against top-ranked Wildwood in the Region Final.

“Coach said we needed to come out and play aggressive,” said Lawrence, who scored 10 points in the first quarter as Hawthorne built a 17-6 lead. “This could have been our last game.”

Lawrence hit three 3s in the opening half and he had 15 points to lead all scorers at intermission.

“I’ve been challenging him all season,” said head coach Greg Bowie. “I gave him the green light.”

The Hornets used a 23-9 run in the second quarter to take a 40-15 lead at the half.

“We got off to a great start,” said Hawthorne head coach Greg Bowie, who will take his fifth Hawthorne team to the final four. “That was the best half we played all year.”

Lawrence was one of four players in double figures for Hawthorne, which also got 13 points from senior Jeremiah James and 11 points from senior Key’shaun Williams, including six free throws in the fourth quarter after Wildwood’s furious rally got them within single digits in the fourth quarter.

“It was a team effort,” said Bowie. “I challenged the guys because Torey has been the only one scoring. That’s a pretty good scoring night.”

However, it may have been the defense, particularly in the first half, that helped the Hornets advance to their first state semifinal in three years.

Hawthorne held Ole Miss commit Marcus Niblack to just two points in the first half.

“Our key was to keep them under 60 and if we did we would have a chance to win,” said Bowie.

Niblack helped lead a furious rally in the second half for the Wildcats (21-8), as he made it a 7-point game on a shot from beyond half court at the buzzer to end the third quarter.

He would finish with a game-high 27 points.

However, James and Williams combined to score 13 points in the final quarter to help put the game away.

“Watching the girls (who play in Lakeland on Wednesday), and seeing them punch their ticket, it gave the boys a little extra motivation,” said Bowie. “The way we play defense, we always give ourselves a chance.”

Despite losing nine seniors, including all five starters, Hawthorne will play Paxton, which eliminated Graceville, 65-45, in the Class 1A state semifinals on Wednesday, March 4.

“It’s a dream,” said Lawrence. “Going to Lakeland is a dream come true.”

Every game The Prep Zone will recognize a Player-of-the-Game. The recipient receives a $10 gift certificate courtesy of Sonic Drive-In of Gainesville & Ocala.