For the second time in program history the Hawthorne girls basketball team is on top again.
And for the second time in less than three months head coach Cornelius Ingram has won two state titles, following the school’s first-ever football state title in December.
Sophomore De’Mya Adams scored a team-high 18 points as the No. 4 seed Hornets rallied past No. 2 seed Wildwood, 42-38, to win the Class 1A state title at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Friday night.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram, who coached the Hornets to their first title in 2020. “I just love the way our girls fought the entire game. We were confident the entire game even when we were down.”
The low scoring affair was just what Hawthorne was looking for.
“We knew they wanted to run and push the ball,” said Ingram, who said his coaching staff took notice of Gainesville and P.K. Yonge holding Wildwood to 44 points and 51 points, respectively. “They have two unbelievable guards. We wanted to make sure we got back on defense.
“We did an awesome job of taking care of the ball, probably the best we’ve done all year. We got some key charges early on in the game. They trusted the game plan and they deserve this championship.”
After trailing 30-25 early in the fourth quarter, Adams converted an and-one with 3:43 to play to tie the game at 31-all.
That helped spark a 10-0 run.
“She’s special, very special,” Ingram said of Adams, who scored a career-high 41 points in the region final. “She can get her own shot at any time. You just have to let her go play. She can get to the basket and she can pull up. She was outstanding tonight. We trust her.”
Junior Lakijah Brown added a layup for a 33-31 lead less than a minute later and Hawthorne (15-5) never trailed again.
A finger roll layup by Jhalea Jackson, the younger sister of Jaz’lyn Jackson (7 points, 9 rebounds), gave Hawthorne a 35-31 lead with 2:12 remaining.
It was a monster game for the sophomore, who finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds and added four blocks late.
“She took it personal,” Ingram said. “There was extra motivation. All we heard was we were too slow to play. The bigs wouldn’t be a factor. They took it personal. I love the way we responded.”
Wildwood (24-2), which was playing in its fourth state title game in the last seven years, did get it as close as three, 41-38, on a 3-pointer from the right wing by Ramiya Blackwell with nine seconds left.
However, Jhalea Jackson iced the game by hitting one of two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining.
It was a game of runs on Friday night.
The Wildcats, who had outscored their opponents by an average of 37 points per game, went on a 7-0 run for a 10-4 lead in the opening quarter.
After a quick 3-pointer by freshman Adejah Corbin for a 13-8 Wildwood lead, the Lady Hornets responded with a 9-0 run, getting a 3-pointer by Adams for a 17-13 lead with just under two minutes to play in the half.
That lead held up as Hawthorne headed to the locker room up four and extended the run to 10-0 on a free throw by Jhalea Jackson for an 18-13 lead with 7:23 still to play in the third quarter.
Wildwood, which was held to just three points in the second quarter, scored 15 points in the third quarter.
An 8-0 run gave the Wildcats a 21-18 lead.
Once again, Adams delivered, knocking down a 3-pointer to tie the game, 21-21, before Wildwood took its largest lead, 28-22, on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by sophomore Trinidy Harris.
Harris, who was No. 1 in 1A in total points and points per game, led the Wildcats with 21 points.
Hawthorne earned this one.
The Lady Hornets defeated 2-time defending state champion and top seed Ponce De Leon in the state semifinals, and they defeated state runner-up Wildwood in the final.
But it was the defeat at Wildwood in last year’s region final that served as motivation for this one.
“I know we were better than what we were,” Ingram said of his team’s 60-26 loss to end last season. “It was a hostile environment. It was a great learning moment.”
It wasn’t hard for Ingram to find something he could use in his pregame speech.
“If I can find any motivation, I‘ll use it,” he said. “I know my coaching staff is the same way. We love preparing. Our players are a reflection of us so they love preparing as well and that’s why our program is one of the best.”
It was big-time motivation against a big-time program.
“I just love the way my girls go about their business,” Ingram said. “I know they were ready by the way they practiced. There was a bitter taste in our mouth. They were embarrassed and we responded.”
Hawthorne now has two state titles under Ingram since Dec. 10.
“I’m happy for our school and our community,” he said. “It’s a special moment right now. I don’t know exactly if someone has done it or not but I always just cherish these moments. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Everything happens for a reason. Some might call it destiny.
“I think about a short NFL career due to injuries and I came back for a reason, a purpose,” Ingram said. “I never questioned God. I wanted to be one of the best. I tell my players to set goals. When you set goals, you have something to look forward to. I am a highly motived guy.”
Goal set, mission accomplished.