The Hawthorne Hornets girls basketball team was struggling offensively in the District 6-1A championship game against Newberry.
But the Hawthorne defense was as tough as ever, and that led the defending state champion Hornets to another district title.
Junior Jhalea Jackson had a double-double and led Hawthorne in scoring with 14 points as the Hornets slipped past Newberry, 48-38, at the Fort White High School gym on Friday night.
It was the third win in a calendar year for Hawthorne over Newberry. The Hornets defeated Newberry 64-48 in last year’s district title game, then handled the Panthers 80-55 in the 1A region final to advance back to Lakeland, where they won their second state title in four years under Cornelius Ingram.
In this game, Hawthorne took advantage of a size difference inside with Jackson and junior Ashlyn Coleman.
Coleman was also in double figures with 11 points and had numerous offensive rebounds for the Hornets.
“We played very well on defense and II think we rotated very well,” Ingram said. “Guards drove the ball down to the basket and dropped it off to Jhalea, and Ashlyn Coleman had a big night as well.”
Both teams started slowly in the opening quarter of a game that was physical for the most part. Junior Ty’myra Carter had five points and senior Zakena Ealy added four as the Hornets led 12-7 after the first eight minutes.
Hawthorne pulled away to as much as 11 points in the second period with Coleman scoring 10 of her 11 points before Newberry closed the gap to 25-20 at the half.
The third quarter was key, however, as Hawthorne turned up the defense. The Hornets allowed Newberry only three points, with the Panthers only field goal coming in the final minute of the quarter. Jackson scored four of Hawthorne’s nine points and the Hornets led 34-23 going in into the final quarter.
“Jhalea did an excellent job of scoring around the rim,’ Ingram said. “But she’s also a great passer from underneath the basket as well. I’m just glad I get an opportunity to coach her.”
Hawthorne stayed on top in the fourth quarter by shooting 10-of-15 from the free throw line.
The win was the 15th in a row for the Hornets (18-3), who will now host at least a regional semifinal game.
Newberry (15-8) was led by junior Sarah Beaulieu with 15 points and sophomore Brandy Whitfield added 10 points before fouling out with four minutes left.
FRIDAY, FEB. 9
1A-District 6 Championship
1 Hawthorne 48, 2 Newberry 38
1A-District 7 Championship
1 Wildwood 63, 2 Trenton 26
2A-District 4 Championship
2 Countryside Christian 34, 1 Oak Hall 29
3A-District 2 Championship
1 Trinity Catholic (Ocala) 53, 2 P.K. Yonge winner 45
4A-District 5 Championship
1 Eastside 52, 2 Palatka 37
6A-District 2 Championship
1 Lincoln (Tallahassee) 51, 2 Gainesville 49 (OT)