Hawthorne advances to the state title game

The Hawthorne girls’ basketball team is headed back to the state championship game.

Senior Jayla Williams scored a game-high 25 points as the defending Class 1A state champion Lady Hornets defeated Trenton, 43-32, in the state semifinals on Wednesday night at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

“It’s always a great feeling to get a win in this part of the season,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram. “I’m proud of my girls. I’m happy they’re enjoying this moment. I definitely feel great about advancing.”

Hawthorne (20-4) will play Ponce De Leon (21-2), winners of 18 straight, for the FHSAA Class 1A state title on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Ponce De Leon defeated Port St. Joe, 52-38, in the other state semifinal.

“I’m excited about going into Friday,” Ingram said. “We have got a day to prepare for them.”

The Lady Hornets got off to a good start against the 2019 state champions, outscoring the Lady Tigers 17-10 in the opening quarter.

“Hawthorne is a very physical basketball team, so we knew coming in that they had the size advantage, but we were going to try and run and do a couple of things,” said Trenton coach Bryant Frye. “Looking at the halftime statistics I think we were shooting probably 20-something-percent. I think if we shot a better percentage, we’d have been right there with them, maybe ahead of them, so that’s part of the game that you’ve got to shoot baskets and not turn it over as much.”

That’s two areas where Trenton struggled against Hawthorne.

The Lady Tigers (23-5) shot just 25.53% from the floor and turned the ball over 22 times. Hawthorne outscored Trenton 25-10 in points off of turnovers.

Meanwhile, Williams not only showed the ability to score inside and outside, but she also finished 11-of-13 from the free throw line.

“I knew she was going to be a factor,” Frye said. “She’s a very good distributor and teammate. She’s got speed and the talent, and she did a great job tonight.”

Williams scored seven points in the opening quarter and finished strong with nine points in the fourth quarter.

“She’s a leader,” Ingram said. “She played great tonight. We definitely needed her. She picked us up.”

Trenton, which was playing in its third state semifinal in the past seven years under Frye, was led by junior Jordan Douglas with 13 points.

“We commend them and congratulations to Hawthorne for moving on,” Frye said.

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