C.J. Ingram has been the go-to guy for the Hawthorne boys basketball team in the postseason the past two seasons.
On Wednesday night in the 1A state semifinals against Chipley at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Ingram again tried his best to lead the Hornets to victory once again.
Ingram scored 26 points for Hawthorne and thought he had given his team the lead with six seconds left on a basket-and-one.
But the basket was waved off, Ingram missed two free throws and Chipley held on for a 49-46 win to advance to the 1A state championship game on Friday night against Williston.
Williston (24-7) easily defeated Franklin County (Eastpoint), 54-37, in the other 1A state semifinal game and will play for their first state boys basketball title.
"There were two big plays (and-ones) that were called off that were not correct calls," Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie said. "But we can't argue about that."
Ingram scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and scored eight points in the fourth quarter as Hawthorne and Chipley (21-6) switched off hitting big baskets in the final period.
Ingram did miss his last four free throws, including the two big ones that would have given the Hornets (11-7) the lead. But Bowie said the game wasn't about those two free throws.
"The game shouldn't have come down to those free throws,” he said. “We had our chances. We took the lead midway through the fourth quarter and could have pulled away, but they hit an uncontested three and the game changed from there."
The first half was rough offensively. The two teams combined for 26 turnovers and, despite shooting only 21% from the floor, Chipley lead at halftime. But they only led Hawthorne, 17-16.
"We played a lot of bad basketball in the first half," Bowie said. "But despite that, we were only down one point at the half and knew we would make a run."
Chipley maintained the lead through most of the third quarter and led 33-30 heading into the final period.
After five straight points from Ingram and a 3-pointer by junior Isaac Taplis, Hawthorne led 41-38 with three minutes left.
But Kyler Bryant, who led Chipley with 20 points, tied the game with a trey and the contest see-sawed back and forth until the end.
Hawthorne – the 2020 1A state champion – advanced to its third final four appearance in four years and seven in the last 12 years under Bowie.