On Tuesday night at the Woodshed, the Wildwood girls basketball team set the tone early against Hawthorne in a Class 1A-Region 4 Final.
The Lady Wildcats scored the first 13 points of the game and imposed a running clock in a 60-26 rout of the visiting Hornets to advance to next week’s FHSAA state semifinals in Lakeland.
“We did some things that we definitely weren’t used to doing,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram. “When the crowd gets into it and kids’ emotions are up and down, you’ve got to keep your composure no matter what, so it was definitely a tough one. They deserved to win.”
Hawthorne’s Jaz’lyn Jackson picked up her second foul with 5:45 to play in the opening quarter which helped open the door for the Wildcats.
“She’s our emotional leader,” Ingram said of his junior, who was coming off an ankle injury. “She’s been great all year. She’ll be back next year.”
Wildwood freshman Trinidy Harris, who scored a game-high 21 points, hit a floater in the lane with 3:43 to play in the opening quarter as Wildwood (18-4) raced out to a 13-0 lead.
The Hornets (16-6) were held without a field goal in the first quarter and didn’t score until sophomore Lakijah Brown made two free throws to make it 13-2 with 1:48 to play.
“They’ve been playing great all year,” Ingram said. “They played great against us the first game and tonight they played great as well so hats off to Wildwood. We’ve had their number the last couple of years. They were prepared and ready to play.”
Despite being down 17-3 after the opening quarter, Ingram still felt like his team had a chance.
“I thought I could get a little more from our girls to cut it going into halftime, but they kept hitting shots,” he said. “They kept making the extra pass and finding their teammates for easy layups and they played hard on both ends of the floor.”
Hawthorne also struggled at the free throw line, making just 5-of-19 in the opening half, as Wildwood led 34-11 at intermission.
“You can’t win games,” Ingram said. “And 10-12 layups we should have had. Those aren’t guaranteed, but the free throws, you’ve got to have those, and just those alone keeps us in the game, keeps the girls motivated, and it’s hard when they’re scoring and we can’t get stops and then when we get a stop, we get fouled, and we miss the free throws. You have to be mentally tough in those moments, but Wildwood played one incredible game.”
The Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A by MaxPreps, quickly made sure there would be no second half comeback as Narjhani Harris hit a 3-pointer one minute into the third quarter for a 38-11 lead.
Freshman De’Mya Adams led the Hornets with 11 points, followed by senior Saideriel Oliver with six.
Hawthorne, which only had three seniors, came up one game shy of reaching its fourth straight final four. Last year, the Hornets fell in the Class 1A championship to Ponce de Leon, 40-37.
“It’s been fun,” Ingram said. “I enjoy coaching these girls every single day, being a Hawthorne alum, I know most of their parents, or some relative. They’re my water girls during football season so I see them year-round.”
Ingram said he hopes they continue to get better during the offseason.
“Just do the right things, condition their bodies, just to make sure they’re ready for each and every moment that comes their way,” he said. “I’m proud of them regardless of the outcome. I’m happy where our program is. I just wished we could have had a better turnout tonight.”