Ingram, Ervin repeat as top coaches

Hawthorne's Cornelius Ingram (left) and Williston's Jim Ervin were selected as 2024 All Area basketball Coaches of the Year.
Hawthorne's Cornelius Ingram (left) and Williston's Jim Ervin were selected as 2024 Bosshardt Realty All Area basketball Coaches of the Year.
Graphic by Seth Johnson/Photos by C.J. Gish

This is the fourth of five stories unveiling the 2024 Bosshardt Realty All Area Basketball Teams. Click here to read about the Small School girls team, the Small School boys team, the Big School girls team and the Big School boys team.

History has a way of repeating itself.

Because of that, our small school coaches of the year were easy selections once again.

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Hawthorne girls’ basketball coach Cornelius Ingram and Williston boys’ basketball coach Jim Ervin led their respective clubs to their second straight state title and repeated as the top small school coaches.

They join big school coaches Lonna Turner (Eastside girls) and Elliot Harris (Buchholz boys) as our 2023-24 Bosshardt Realty Coaches of the Year.

A panel of local sportswriters and coaches chose the All Area teams and coaches from Mainstreet’s eight-county coverage area. All 44 players and coaches will receive commemorative plaques to recognize their accomplishments.

Ingram, the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Coach of the Year, led the Lady Hornets to their second straight Class 1A state title.

They rallied past top-ranked Wildwood in the state semifinals and defeated Graceville in the title game, overcoming double-digit deficits in both games.

“The girls just competed at a high level and banned together as sisters no matter what during the course of the season, during the course of games,” said Ingram, who finished fourth in the voting for the overall Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year. “In Lakeland there were plenty of times we could have folded but there was no flinching in these girls. Very unselfish bunch. I’m extremely proud that I had the opportunity to coach an amazing group of girls.”

The turning point came early in the season, which didn’t begin until Dec. 12 since Ingram took a week off after winning a second straight football state title.

The Hornets lost three games in a row to Providence (Jacksonville), at Buchholz and at Bradford (Starke), Dec. 19-21, but they didn’t lose again, reeling off 19 straight wins to end the season.

“We felt like we got better because out of those three games that we lost in a row, two of those teams we played again (Buchholz and Bradford) and we ended up winning those games, so right away we felt like we were improving, we’ve had more practice time together, we’re starting to get in a rhythm, and the girls never flinched,” Ingram said. “They took those bumps and bruises early on and we knew we would get better. It was just a matter of time of us gelling together, but it was a special season.”

Eastside girls basketball coach Lonna Turner
Photo by C.J. Gish Eastside coach Lonna Turner

Hawthorne, which defeated Newberry, 48-38, to win the 1A-District 6 title,  became the first girls basketball team in the area to repeat since Keystone Heights won consecutive state titles in the mid-90s.

Special recognition goes out to Lynsey Grant of Class 1A Trenton, who in just her second year led the Lady Tigers to a 23-5 record and a regional final appearance.

Ervin’s Red Devils (29-2) finished on top again after an easy 63-30 win against Chipley in the state semifinals and a 61-53 win against Hilliard in the state championship game thanks to an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter.

“It was a dream year,” Ervin said. “To go into a season with our schedule and go 29-2 and complete it with a state title, you can’t say much more than it being a dream.”

Ervin, who was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Coach of the Year, finished fourth in the voting for the overall coach of the year.

In four years at Williston, Ervin has compiled an 84-26 record and has a 27-year career mark of 428-203.

“In my interview at Williston the first day, they were worried about how we were going to come in and what we were going to do with the program, and I said, ‘No. 1 we’re going to change the culture and No. 2 we’re going to win a state title,’ and I said that’s the only reason I’m at Williston is to win state titles,” Ervin said on “The Prep Zone Sports Show” on March 27. “We didn’t think we would get there this quick but with the type of program we have as far as kids and coaches and the support from our community, that’s what got us there a little quicker.”

Williston became the first area boys’ team to win back-to-back since Gainesville High in 1999 and 2000.

Elven Sheppard of Fort White and Monte Towe of Oak Hall were honorable mention selections.

Sheppard led the Indians (17-7) to their first playoff appearance since 2019.

Fort White lost to Hawthorne in the 1A-District 6 semifinals, but they defeated the Hornets (16-5), 56-51, in the regional semifinals before falling at eventual state runner-up Hilliard, 64-51, in the region final.

It was the first regional final appearance for Fort White in program history.

Towe, who recently stepped down as head coach at Oak Hall, had quite the year.

The Eagles (17-6) defeated Redeemer Christian (Ocala), 50-36, in the 2A-District 4 championship game to win their first district title since 2011.

It was Oak Hall’s first back-to-back seasons with 17 or more wins since 1977-78.

Towe had a 48-18 record the past three years, which is the best OHS three-year winning percentage in the past 45 years and he closed his eight-year stint at OHS with 105-71 record (59.7%) for the highest winning percentage in school history for a coach of four or more years.

Turner, who was named Eastside’s coach last March, led Eastside to the 4A-District 5 title and a state playoff appearance in her first season.

The Lady Rams (15-9), who defeated Palatka, 52-37, in the title game, were the only area big school team to win a district championship this past season.

Buchholz coach Elliot Harris
Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz coach Elliot Harris

Eastside, which lost at Dunnellon, 56-45, in the first round of the 4A state playoffs, won its first district title since 2019.

Willie Powers of P.K. Yonge gets special recognition.

Although the Lady Blue Wave lost 53-45 to Trinity Catholic (Ocala) in the 3A-District 2 title game, denying Powers his 20th district championship, P.K. Yonge earned an at-large bid.

P.K. Yonge (14-9) bounced back to beat Bradford (Starke), 42-38, in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs, before losing in the second round at eventual state semifinalist Providence (Jacksonville), 77-62.

Harris, who led Santa Fe (Alachua) to their first state championship game appearance in school history in 2021, took some time off before returning to coaching this past year.

He led Buchholz (18-11) to its most wins since finishing 15-10 in 2014-15.

“Great first year back coaching, first year coming back after two years” Harris said. “It’s a little different starting over but it was a great year and I just look forward to building more at Buchholz.”

Harris, who was named Buchholz’s coach last April, beat his former school early in the year as the Bobcats started the season 5-1.

“The kids really bought into what we wanted to do at the beginning of the year, and they allowed me to coach them,” Harris said. “That’s just a testament to the type of kids that we have at Buchholz because it could have gone in a different direction. They could have not been receptive to my coaching, and they allowed me to coach them, and so I think that’s why we were so successful.”

That success included Buchholz’s first FHSAA playoff win in 15 years with a 59-48 win against Forest (Ocala) in a Class 6A-Region 1 Quarterfinal.

“The Buchholz Nation, the Bobcat Nation, they deserve that,” Harris said. “Buchholz for a long time had a winning tradition and I’m just happy to be a part of that and be able to bring that back.”

Mike Barnes of Gainesville High receives special recognition after the Hurricanes defeated Buchholz with 1.3 seconds to play to win the 6A-District 2 title.

GHS (18-12) also won a playoff game, edging Oakleaf (Orange Park), 47-46, in the first round of the 6A state playoffs before ending its season with a 58-44 loss at state semifinalist Ponte Vedra in the next round.

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