They’re rarely easy.
Last Thursday, Hawthorne freshman C.J. Ingram hit a pair of free throws with 3.1 seconds left to ice the game in a 49-46 win against Williston in the Class 1A regional semifinals.
On Tuesday night, in front of another standing room only crowd at home, Ingram made two free throws with six seconds to play in double overtime to lift the top-seeded Hornets to a 40-39 win against No. 2 seed Trenton in the Class 1A-Region 4 Final.
The win sends Hawthorne to Lakeland next Wednesday for their third state semifinal appearance in the last six years and their second in the past three years.
“It means a lot,” said Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie, who won the state title in 2020. “Let me just say, ‘hat’s off to Trenton.’ That’s a great team. And I’ve also got to give my guys credit. When they (Trenton) hit that three at the end of the game, we could have folded but I told them just get another stop and as long as there is time on the clock we’ve got a chance.”
Trenton junior Xavier Jones (11 points) hit a 3-pointer just left of the top of the key to give the Tigers a 39-36 lead with 1:18 to play in the second overtime.
Ingram made one of two free throws to bring the Hornets within two at 39-37, with 36 seconds to play.
Following a Trenton turnover, one of three in their last four possessions, Hornets’ senior Jamal Nealy made one of two free throws and Hawthorne trailed, 39-38, with 24 seconds left in double overtime.
However, the Tigers turned it over again with 15.7 seconds to play to give Hawthorne another chance.
“We jumped into the full court press right away and got a couple of turnovers and that led directly to baskets, so with everything that went on in the last 30 seconds to a minute that was probably the difference in the game,” Bowie said.
The turnovers proved to be the difference after senior guards Tyler Perry (game-high 16 points) and Jaron Riley fouled out with 36 seconds and six seconds to play in the game, respectively.
“They played hard,” Trenton coach Cedric Booth said of his Tigers, who were 0-for-17 since 2007 against Hawthorne but had a chance to win it late. “It came down to one possession that we needed at the very end and the atmosphere kind of got on the guys at the last minute. It was all about ball control and handling the ball and being able to handle that pressure and it just got to them at the end.”
Trenton (18-11) also had an opportunity to win it in regulation.
Perry scored with 14 seconds to play to tie the game at 36-36. He was fouled but missed the free throw.
The Hornets, who failed to win it in regulation, held the ball for the entire four minutes of the first overtime, something Bowie said he has “never” done.
“Never, and I bet you my fans were probably going crazy and they felt like ‘that’s not Hawthorne basketball,” Bowie said with a laugh. “But I think we were fatigued. C.J. (Ingram) didn’t come out at all and he played every minute of regulation and overtime, I don’t think D.J. Slater got a breather, Jailen Ruth didn’t get a breather, so I was trying to give my guys a rest and get the last shot off.”
They also held it for most of the second overtime before a turnover gave Trenton the ball back, setting up the game-winning finish.
Hawthorne (11-4) also had its chances to win in regulation.
Junior Jailen Ruth, who helped lead the Hornets’ football team to a state runner-up finish this past December, scored five of his team-high 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a bucket for a 32-27 lead with 5:42 to play in the game.
“They played very aggressive,” Ruth said of Trenton. “We were just able to pull it out in the end. It feels very good knowing that we’re going (state tournament in Lakeland) in basketball. I’ve been in football but haven’t gotten it done. I hope we can get it done in basketball.”
The Hornets will join Bradford (Starke) in Lakeland. The Tornadoes (14-10) defeated Madison County, 64-54, in the 1A-Region 3 Final to advance, along with Paxton and Malone.
All four state semifinal teams will be reseeded, and the Class 1A state semifinals will be held on Wednesday, March 2, at 6 and 8 p.m. at the RP Funding Center.
Meanwhile, Trenton’s bid to make its first final four in boys basketball in school history came up just one point short on the road against the No. 1 team in Class 1A according to MaxPreps. The Tigers advanced to the contest with a 45-35 win over Newberry in the Region 4-1A semifinal last Thursday.
Booth knows his team left it all out on the floor.
“I love them” Booth said of his team. “I’ve never had a problem with energy and effort. They always give me that, and I told them tonight if we go out and we play as hard as we can and we still lose, you can sleep better. You don’t regret anything.”
Class 4A-Region 1
No. 1 Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) 56, No. 4 Santa Fe (Alachua) 33
Class 1A-Region 3
No. 1 Bradford (Starke) 64, No. 2 Madison County 54
Class 1A-Region 4
No. 1 Hawthorne 40, No. 2 Trenton 39 (2OT)
To get more high school sports news and analysis, subscribe to Mike Ridaught’s free email newsletter.
This news brief is brought to you by Radiant Credit Union, giving youth the power to shine. Radiant is federally insured by the NCUA.