Palatka boys hoops keeps perfect record

Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:47 p.m.

HAWTHORNE - There are many different reasons why Palatka improved to 18-0 after beating a tough Hawthorne team, 74-64, on Tuesday night.

The biggest - in more ways than one - was Keyshawn Hamilton.

After appearing tentative in the first half (so much to the point that assistant coaches were yelling at him for turning down uncontested 12-foot set shots), the 6-foot-9 senior center came up with play after play late for the Panthers. And the player who finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals looked far different than the one who entered the midgame break with just two points, six rebounds and two blocks.

He credited a spirited halftime speech delivered by coach Lamar Purifoy, whose team is now 11-0 on the road.

"He said I needed to take control," said Hamilton, who scored eight of his points in the decisive fourth quarter. "He said I was playing weak. I needed to go to the hole."

But Hamilton wasn't alone, as, in all eight Panthers scored at least four points with Brandon Johnson (13), Joc Peeples (12), Chris Johnson (10) and Stephen Chandler (nine) either reaching or coming close to reaching double figures. That helped offset the loss of James Williams (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.7 spg, 3.2 apg), a 6-5 senior swingman with Division I scholarship offers who was lost for the season last Friday with a torn ACL.

All of their efforts were necessary, as PHS found itself behind by as many as six points in the third and three in the fourth to the scrappy Hornets (14-7).

Purifoy said he was most proud of one thing.

"We got behind and kept our composure," said Purifoy, who added his team had a similar comeback victory on Dec. 29 against 2009 Class 3A state runner-up Orlando Jones. Palatka won that game, 77-61.

Hawthorne coach Greg Bowie, whose team was led by Ed Ray (19 points) and Marquis Hayes (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists), also said he was pleased with much of what his team was able to accomplish.

"We've had a few bad losses," said Bowie, who credited Hamilton for making the most of a height mismatch when the Hornets switched from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man with about three minutes remaining in the contest. "We had losses by more than 30 points to Eastside (85-47 on Dec. 18) and (Jacksonville) Raines (74-37 on Jan. 2). But we've played better lately (winning four straight and 6-of-7 entering the Palatka game) and hung in there against an unbeaten team."

John Patton can be reached at 352-374-5074 or by email at

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