UPDATE (3:40 p.m.): Due to an accident on I-75, the traffic slowdown delayed the broadcast team’s time of arrival to past the start time of the Hawthorne game. Due to the circumstances, the game will not be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country.”
The Hawthorne girls basketball team was beaten handily at Wildwood in last year’s Class 1A-Region 4 Final.
But one year later, the Lady Hornets are back in Lakeland seeking their second state title in four years. It’s also Hawthorne’s fourth final four appearance in five years.
Tonight at 6 p.m. No. 4 seed Hawthorne will play top seed Ponce De Leon at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland in the Class 1A state semifinals in a rematch of the 2021 state title game.
The game will air on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online (audio only) at IamCountryRadio.com.
“It’s huge for our community, our program,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram. “It’s not easy getting back there so we make sure our kids know the importance of how special this moment is and we’re not just going down there. We’re going to compete for a state championship.”
That seems to be a common theme for the Hawthorne athletics program.
In December, the Hawthorne football team won its first state title in program history.
On Tuesday night, the Hawthorne boys basketball team defeated Newberry to advance to next week’s final four.
“I take my hat off to the girls, and the boys, because we had a short season,” Ingram explained. “When we started the season a lot of other teams were 10 games in. We’re finally kind of playing catch up, and our chemistry is there. I can see that with the girls and the boys. It’s all about timing, so I’m extremely proud.”
Ingram is the head coach of the football team, which is why Hawthorne (13-5) pushed its schedule back and only played three games prior to January.
But once again it was a challenging schedule that included 2A region finalist North Florida Educational Institute (Jacksonville), 3A state semifinalist Providence (Jacksonville), and 6A regional semifinalist Gainesville High.
Sophomore De’Mya Adams, a two-year starter, scored a career-high 41 points.
“She’s an all-around player,” Ingram said. “She really enjoys the game. She loves preparing. There’s a group of girls that surround her. All of them are unselfish, but she does a lot for our basketball team. She can score from anywhere on the floor. All of them are playing with confidence. If we relax and play it should be a fun night of basketball.”
Adams leads the team in scoring (18.8 points per game) but the Hornets’ lone senior, Jaz’lyn Jackson, a 1,000-point scorer, is right behind her with an average of 17.2 ppg.
In 2020, the Hawthorne girls defeated Port St. Joe, 33-32, to win their first state title in program history. The Lady Hornets finished 29-2 with both losses coming to bigger schools University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) and P.K. Yonge (3A).
The following year Hawthorne lost to Ponce De Leon, 40-37, in the 1A state championship game, denying the Lady Hornets back-to-back state titles.
Now they will meet the Pirates (20-3) again for the right to advance to Friday’s state title game.
Senior Carmen Jones (17.2) is the only Wildwood player who averages double figures in points, but they have a total of five players who average five points or more per game for a team that averages just 47.7 points per game.
“They’re very disciplined,” Ingram said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t try and play fast.
They play at their own pace. Just watching them on film and seeing them knock down shots consistently, we have to be in the right spots at all times. But I know for a fact that my girls are up for the challenge and we’ll be ready to play.”
The Class 1A state championship game is at 7 p.m. on Friday night.