Summer Sonic Highlights: Williston boys basketball

Williston defeated Hilliard, 61-53, on Saturday to claim its second straight Class 1A state championship.
Williston defeated Hilliard, 61-53, to claim its second straight Class 1A state championship.
Photo by Mike Ridaught

Editor’s note: This is the second 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 Williston boys basketball team and head coach Jim Ervin, 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, March 27.

The Red Devils (29-2) won their second straight Class 1A state title on March 2, and joined a special group of state champions in the area. Williston cruised past Chipley, 63-30, in the state semifinals. They had to work for their second title, rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Hilliard, 61-53, in the 1A state championship game in Lakeland.

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Below are excerpts from the March 27 interview — edited for length and clarity — of The Prep Zone’s interview. You can listen to the full conversation online.

Q: Was this state championship harder than the first one?

Jim Ervin: I don’t think so. I think they set a mission early in the year that they were going to get back there, and hard work just paid off, you know, and being there before. I think that was an advantage for us, knowing what it took to win a state title.

Q: You could have dominated 1A competition, but you played a very tough schedule outside of your classification. How much did that help you by playing a tougher schedule?

Jim Ervin: Yeah, that’s what prepared us. I wouldn’t have done a very good job as a coach if we went 31-0 and we just wouldn’t have scheduled good enough (teams). You know, going 29-2 is exceptional. But we went out and played anybody who would play us. A lot of teams didn’t want to play us this year. And we took care of business.

Q: It seems like this year was more of a business thing for your basketball team because each time I would talk to you, you talked about how locked in they were. I mean, these guys were really focused this year.

Jim Ervin: That was a statement set by our seniors. You know, we have a great group of seniors there, and their decision early on was to get back there (Lakeland) and win a state title and I knew every day when we came into practice, it was a job. And when we went and played, it was finishing a job. Every night, we went and competed every night on the court.

Q: Kyler, kind of take us through this last run. Boy, what a way to go out with back-to-back state championships. Talk about all the hard work and stuff you guys put in to win it.

Kyler Lamb (SR): Yeah, it’s been dedication, starting two years ago, winning that first state championship, and knowing that we had to work even harder to win the second one. Knowing the dedication, the work after practice, during practice, in school, whatever it was, we knew we had to work hard to repeat and make history.

Q: Was this championship harder than the first?

Kyler Lamb (SR): Honestly, I think the first one might have been a little bit harder just because it was the first one. So, it almost felt impossible, like it never had happened. And this year we kind of were favored to win it, and we knew that it was possible. We knew what it would take to win it again.

Q: Javon Brown, he’s going to be playing football at Toledo. Let’s start there. Javon, obviously the Williston football team was pretty good too, back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Talk about playing for Coach Pruitt and what that was like.

Javon Brown (SR): I think that playing for Coach Pruitt, it was pretty fun being around the guys and Coach Pruitt. He turned around a team that wasn’t used to winning, and turned the team into a team that would win, going undefeated back-to-back. I liked it.

Q: What was it about Hilliard (state championship game) that gave you guys a little trouble? That was a tough matchup.

Javon Brown (SR): I say that every game we played this year because each team came out and gave us their best, and Hilliard, they gave us their best because that was the last game of the season and they wanted to show that just because they’re the underdogs that they could compete with us.

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