Tuesday night’s Alachua County showdown between Hawthorne and host P.K. Yonge was a tale of two quarters in the second half.
The visiting Hornets built a 19-point lead in the 3rd quarter and then held off a furious Blue Wave rally in the fourth quarter for a wild 55-53 win to spoil P.K. Yonge’s Senior Night.
Hawthorne, which is ranked No. 4 in Class 1A by MaxPreps, only had 21 points at the half, but still led by seven, 21-14, at the break. The Hornets (7-4) made a run in the third quarter and matched the entire first half with 21 points in the third quarter.
Freshman C.J. Ingram (17 points) gave the Hornets their largest lead in the third quarter, 30-20, with 5:30 to play in the quarter.
Junior Jailen Ruth’s dunk gave Hawthorne a 39-22 edge and he added another bucket for a 41-22 lead, and it appeared the rout was on.
“The early start really helped,” said Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie. “We needed that cushion because that’s a great team and I knew they were going to hit shots, I knew they were going to play defense, and I knew they were going to make a run down the stretch. That cushion was the difference in the game.”
Ruth finished with a game-high 18 points.
“I can’t say enough about Jailen,” Bowie said. “He’s a football guy. Basketball is just something he does for fun. I told him at the beginning of the season ‘I don’t want you to play basketball, I just need football Jailen, just go out there the way you play on Friday nights, hustle, energy, get every loose ball, play that way’.”
Hawthorne, which lost at home to P.K. Yonge by six on Jan. 20, led 42-28 at the end of the third quarter but that’s when P.K. Yonge turned up the defensive pressure.
The Class 3A Blue Wave (15-8), who had their four-game winning streak snapped, managed just 28 points through the first three quarters but they exploded for 25 points in the final quarter.
“Our defensive intensity and effort really cranked up,” said P.K. Yonge coach Boderick Johnson, whose team had won 11 of its previous 12 games. “The guys got a sense of pride of defending their home court and the focus got much, much better, the energy got much better. I’m proud of the guys. They dug, they fought, they scratched and clawed.”
Isaiah Cooper’s and-one cut the Hawthorne lead to three at 51-48 with 2:51 to play. The junior scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
“Isaiah played unbelievable,” Johnson said. “He’s one of our designated defensive stoppers. He really cranked it up. He played a huge role tonight and I’m very proud of the effort he gave. His upside and ceiling are tremendous.”
Then, down four with 1:30 to play, freshman Patton Pinkins got fouled by Ingram on a 3-point shot from the top of the key. Pinkins, who finished with a team-high 13 points, made all three free throws to make it a one-point game at 54-53.
Ingram hit 1-of-2 free throws with 22 seconds left for a 55-53 lead but the Blue Wave were unable to force overtime.
P.K. Yonge will conclude the regular season with a home game against Eustis on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We’ll take this and learn from it,” Johnson said. “I tell the guys all the time you have to stay humble and more important stay hungry, so we’re going to be okay.”
Bowie said the win ‘means a lot’ as Hawthorne will now get ready for next week’s Class 1A-District 8 tournament.
“To face adversity, even though we were up big, and still get the win, I think this game definitely helps us,” he said. “Even though we gave up a cushion, the things that happened in the game will help us in the playoffs.”