Two local girls basketball teams advanced to the FHSAA 1A state semifinals in Lakeland this season: Hawthorne and Trenton. The Hornets beat Trenton in the semifinal round and just missed repeating as state champions, losing in the waning seconds of the title game to Ponce De Leon.
Not surprisingly, those same two teams are well represented on the 2021 All Area Basketball Team for small schools, presented by Mainstreet Daily News and The Prep Zone.
Hawthorne has two selections on the first team, led by senior guard Jayla Williams and senior center Mya McGraw. Williams averaged 11.3 points, seven assists and 6.3 steals per game this season. McGraw, a (UNC) Charlotte signee who transferred to Hawthorne from P.K. Yonge before the season, averaged a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Jayla Williams has been the heart and soul of this team that makes us go,” Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram said. “She is a great point guard who can score, pass, and defend.”
“Mya is one of the most unselfish players I’ve coached,” Ingram added. “She has a very high basketball IQ. With her demanding so much attention, she always makes the right basketball play.”
Hawthorne finished the season 20-5 with its only losses until the state championship game coming to 7A schools West Orange (Winter Garden) and Timber Creek (Orlando) and 4A schools Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) and Raines (Jacksonville).
Trenton, who won the 2019 1A state title, advanced to the state semifinals for the second time in three years and third time in seven seasons under coach Bryant Frye. The Tigers season ended at the hands of Hawthorne in Lakeland, but it was still a season to remember for the Tigers girls basketball team.
Senior guard Bri Becker and senior forward Samarie McHenry were both named to the first team. Becker filled up the stat sheet for the Tigers, averaging 10 points, nearly six rebounds, 7.3 assists and 4.7 steals a contest.
“Bri Becker is a great leader on and off the court,” Frye said. “She has been our team’s floor general and has become one of the smartest players I have ever coached. Bri is unselfish and looks for her teammates first, but can and will take over the game if you need her to.”
McHenry also averaged a double-double and was Trenton’s leading scorer with 14.3 points and 10.1 rebounds a game.
“Samarie McHenry has been one of the best players I have been around in all my years,” Frye added. “She is loved by her teammates on and off the court. Her willingness to put her team’s success in front of her own personal success is well known by her teammates.”
The final member of the first team is Branford’s senior forward Cera McElreath. McElreath led the small school squad in scoring, averaging almost 19 points a game and nearly seven rebounds, four steals and four assists per game. She led the Buccaneers to a 13-6 record and a berth in the Region 3-1A final, where Branford was eliminated by Trenton. Of the Buccaneers six losses, four came to Trenton.
McElreath’s teammate, senior guard Kayla Desmartin, leads the second team. Desmartin added to an effective 1-2 punch for Branford with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists per game in 2020-21.
The rest of the second team consists of Hawthorne sophomore forward Jaz’lyn Jackson, Chiefland junior guard Charity Hodge, and two Fort White Indians, senior center Decaria Armstrong and junior forward Jacovya Major.
This is the first in a five-part series on the 2021 All Area Basketball Team, presented by Mainstreet Daily News and The Prep Zone. We will unveil the big school girls team tomorrow.