This time of year, it’s all about survive and advance.
The Williston boys basketball team didn’t play extremely well on Wednesday night in the Class 1A state semifinals.
But fortunately for the top seeded Red Devils, their defense made up for any offensive shortcomings.
Three players scored in double figures as Williston advanced to its first state title game appearance in program history with a 54-37 win against No. 4 seed Franklin County at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
The Red Devils (24-7) will play Chipley for the Class 1A state title on Friday night. The Tigers edged Hawthorne, 49-46, in the other state semifinal.
“We played very poorly, to be honest with you,” said Williston coach Jim Ervin. “Defensively we played well for about 23 minutes and the other minutes of the game we didn’t play very well offensively. Every time it seemed like we would get into some offensive rhythm we would turn the ball over or we weren’t disciplined enough. I don’t know how many layups we blew. It’s just not what we do as a basketball team.”
But what they did do was take control of the game early and they were able to overcome an off-night shooting by leading scorer Greg Maxwell, who was held to just three points.
“For Greg to only have three points and us win by 17, which is not what we expected as coaches, but to win that way, it’s outstanding,” Ervin said. “Greg’s a great basketball player. He’s going to bounce back and have a huge game. The other kids stepped up like we asked them to.”
After Franklin County took a 6-5 lead in the opening quarter, Williston junior Javon Brown’s basket gave the Red Devils a 7-6 lead.
They never trailed again.
Williston ended the quarter on a 6-0 run for an 11-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Junior Kyler Lamb made a layup during the run and scored seven of his 12 points in the opening quarter.
They took their largest lead of six, 17-11, on a basket by junior Quincy Parker.
Parker’s first time in Lakeland, period, was a memorable one. The North Marion (Citra) transfer finished with a team-high 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, along with two steals and two assists in 27 minutes of action.
“I felt like I just needed to challenge myself and step up and I feel like I did a great job of that,” Parker said. “Locking in on defense and just shutting my man down and everything fell into place, and we got the win so I’m excited about that.”
Parker’s basket to start the third quarter gave Williston a 10-point lead, 21-11, and the Red Devils pulled away in the second half.
They finished the quarter on a layup by Parker with one second to play for a 36-24 lead heading into the final quarter.
For the game, Williston held Franklin County (20-8) to just 31.6% shooting from the floor and they forced 25 turnovers.
Brown just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds for the Red Devils, while senior Jeythian Merced narrowly missed double digits with nine points.
Owen Poloronis led Franklin County with 18 points.