Summer Sonic Highlights: Hawthorne girls basketball

Hawthorne won its second straight Class 1A championship after rallying from an 11-point deficit to defeating Graceville, 43-40, on Saturday.
Hawthorne won its second straight Class 1A championship after rallying from an 11-point deficit to defeating Graceville, 43-40, on Saturday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught

Editor’s note: This is the third part of a summer series revisiting the best of “The Prep Zone” sports show at locally owned Sonic Drive-In of Gainesville featuring interviews with area coaches and players with hosts Mike Ridaught and Marty Pallman from the 2023-24 seasons.

The Hawthorne girls basketball team and head coach Cornelius Ingram, the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Coach of the Year, joined Mainstreet Daily News Sports Director Mike Ridaught and co-host Marty Pallman on their weekly radio show on Wednesday, April 3.

The Lady Hornets (22-3) won their second straight Class 1A state title on March 2 and joined a special group of state champions in the area.

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Hawthorne knocked off No. 1 Wildwood in the state semifinals, rallying from a 12-point second-half deficit to win 44-41 and advance to the title game. In the Class 1A state championship game, the Hornets rallied from an 11-point deficit to defeat Graceville, 43-40, to repeat.

Below are excerpts from the April 3 interview — edited for length and clarity — of The Prep Zone’s interview. You can listen to the full conversation online.

Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram with a fourth quarter speach during a time out against Wildwood in the Class 1A State Semifinal game at FP Funding Center in Lakeland.
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram with a fourth quarter speech during a time out against Wildwood in the Class 1A State Semifinal game at FP Funding Center in Lakeland.

Q: In order to get to the state championship game, you had to knock off the No. 1 team in the state, Wildwood, in the state semifinals, and you rallied from a double-digit deficit to do so.

Cornelius Ingram: Just reflecting on that game, I think we started pretty good. The game was kind of back and forth, and then they went on this run in the third quarter, maybe ended up being up 11 to 12 points going into the fourth and we just told the girls, ‘ladies, let’s just cut it in half before halfway through the fourth quarter, let’s cut it in half.’ And we actually cut it in half in the first minute and a half. So, once they called the timeout, and the girls came over to the bench, I kind of made a joke with them and said, ‘well, at least we’re ahead of schedule.’ And the girls kind of laughed, and you can tell they relaxed, and we knew that was the turning point in in the game. So, hats off to my girls for just staying in tune.

Q: I think everybody kind of looked at it (Wildwood) and thought this is the state championship game, but Graceville came out the next game (state title game) and you were down double digits.

Cornelius Ingram: They were tough. We knew their point guard was really good. She gets them in all of their action. She’s a great defender as well. And then they had some shooters who could really knock down shots. So, they had a fast start with us. And again, at halftime, I just told my girls we’re not playing Hornet basketball. I say, ‘when you’re ready to play let me know,’ I actually took a different approach than I would normally take. I kind of took a seat once I walked into the locker room. I didn’t yell one time, and I knew it hit home, right?

The girls knew they were playing bad, but they felt like they could go out and change the game if we started playing Hornet basketball, and our press started to work the second half, we started to knock down some of those shots. In the game of basketball, it’s always about runs, right? Both teams will make runs. We couldn’t hit a layup, couldn’t hit a free throw in the first half, and I just knew there was no way in the second half we could be that bad. And again, we started making some of those shots. They started really believing in the press that we would normally run in games and things started to change.

Hawthorne's De'Mya Adams drives to the basket against Wildwood in the Class 1A State Semifinal game at FP Funding Center in Lakeland.
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne’s De’Mya Adams drives to the basket against Wildwood in the Class 1A State Semifinal game at FP Funding Center in Lakeland.

Q: De’Mya Adams, I know it’s great that she’s coming back for another year for you, but 17 points in that championship game coach and 18 points against Wildwood in the semifinals. Talk about her play.

Cornelius Ingram: She’s special. She’s been special since day one, and just having her on the team for her to be able to make tough shots for our basketball program, it speaks volumes because in the game of basketball. I really believe you have to have at least one of those kind of players who makes tough shots when things are going bad, when there’s great defense played against you, you have to have a shot maker, and she’s been phenomenal at that in our program.

She’s hit some tough shots in crucial moments for us, and especially on the big stage, because every time she stepped foot down in Lakeland, she’s been ready to play. So yeah, hats off to her. She can make shots everywhere on the floor. She’s also a great passer as well, but once the ball is in her hands, we feel like she can make anything happen and as you can see, she had a great, great performance in both games down in Lakeland.

Q: Tell me what it means to go out on top your senior year, another state championship. Congratulations, how does it feel?

Zakena Ealy (SR): It feels great. I was a little nervous in both games because both games were close so that made me even more nervous.

Q: Tell me what it was like to go on this run and win another state title.

Lakijah Brown (SR): It was a surreal moment going out with a bang. We always talked about it, finishing off a good season, and we actually pulled it off. We managed to finish it off with a state championship. It was a bittersweet feeling knowing this is your last time playing a high school basketball game but also knowing you left a mark in Hawthorne history.

Q: Which was harder to win, this year or last year?

Lakijah Brown (SR): I’d say last season was a little more difficult because we played more higher ranked teams, so it was a little different for us not playing teams in our area that we’re used to playing.

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