BOYS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

Hawthorne, Union County set for state semis


Hawthorne head coach Greg Bowie talks to his team during a timeout earlier this season.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent/FILE
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.

A year ago, the Hawthorne and Union County high school boys basketball teams met each other in the Class 1A state semifinals in Lakeland. This year, if they want to make that happen again, it will be for a state title.

Today, both teams play in separate semifinals at The Lakeland Center, with the Tigers (17-12) opening the five-day tournament with a 10 a.m. matchup against No. 3 Greensboro West Gadsden (24-8), which is coached by former UF guard Andrew Moten.

Following that contest, at around 11:30 a.m. or so, No. 1 Hawthorne (28-1), led by 6-foot-6 sophomore Ed Porter, takes on No. 4 Bonifay Holmes County (18-8), led by 6-10 senior Chris Walker, a UF signee and McDonald's All-American.

“He is definitely a very talented player,” Hornets coach Greg Bowie said. “This is a good opportunity for Ed to solidify himself as one of the top players in the state, going up against Chris Walker. But Walker is going to have to defend him also.”

Hawthorne, which lost in last year's state title game to Chipley (71-48), has made it a mission this season to return to Lakeland and play for another state title. The Hornets even wear shirts that spell it out on the back: “Unfinished Business.”

“The guys are really focused right now,” Bowie said. “Last year with us losing in the championship game, the focus has been to get back. That has been what we have been working towards.

“Winning 28 games is good for fans and all, but at the end of the day, it is about winning a championship.”

The last time Hawthorne won a basketball title came in 1987 under former coach Bill Woods. With a bulk of last year's team back, including Nick Chisholm (8.9 ppg.) and Leamon Wilson (9.9 ppg., 7.4 rpg.), the Hornets got a big boost when Porter, who is averaging a double-double at 19.0 ppg. and 10.0 rpg., came to Hawthorne after playing his freshman year at Gainesville High.

“Our game plan is to try to get out in transition and make it a fast-paced game,” Bowie said. “It is crazy here on campus. The guys are walking around like they are in college.”

Walker, a five-star recruit who signed with the Gators in November, scored 28 points, 22 in the second half, to lead the Blue Devils to a stunning 55-47 upset over No. 2 Malone in Saturday's Region 1 final.

Hoping to meet Hawthorne in Wednesday's championship game is Union County, which lost by three (56-53) to the Hornets in last year's semifinals, the Tigers' first-ever trip to the state tournament.

“The guys knew what it took to get to Lakeland, and a lot of teams played their best ball against us this year because we had been there,” said Union County coach Rufus Jefferson. “We've had a bull's-eye on our back. They had to prove to people they deserved to be there last year. That kind of motivated them to get back.”

Like last year, a major reason the Tigers' record is not as impressive as other teams' in the field is because most of the players — except for senior standout Shaimea Maeweather and sophomore Keldric Bradley — are football players as well.

“Out of our 14 players, 12 were football players who I didn't get until like the second week of December,” Jefferson said. “I had to play a lot of JV guys just to have a team, and for five or six games, had just five players. That's a lot of games.”

Maeweather, a point guard, is the heart and soul of the Tigers, leading the team in points at 18.8 per game and hitting 61 percent (70 of 115) from 3-point range. Bradley had 19 points and 11 rebounds in their regional final win at Baldwin (50-38).

“He (Shaimea) is definitely focused and happy to be back,” Jefferson said. “He wants this more than anybody on our team. He will do everything he can to win a state championship.”

As to the 10 a.m. start today, Jefferson is not happy about it, but says his team will just need to prepare earlier than usual.

“That is going to be very interesting,” he said. “We are just going to have to get up a little earlier and get ready to play.”

Contact Larry Savage at 352-374-5050 or larry.savage@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/sunpreps

BOYS BASKETBALL CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINALS

At The Lakeland Center

Who: Greensboro West Gadsden (24-8) vs. Union County (17-12)

When: Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Rankings: Union County is ranked No. 7 by MaxPreps and unranked by Source Hoops; West Gadsden is No. 2 (MP) and No. 3 (SH)

Webcast: fhsaa.playonsports.com/events/50792

How they got here: Union County def. Baldwin 50-38 in Saturday's regional finals, def. The Villages 86-68 in the regional semifinals; West Gadsden def. Cottondale 51-39 in the regional finals, def. Sneads 60-33 in the regional semifinals

What's next: The winner will face winner of Hawthorne-Holmes County in Wednesday's Class 1A state championship at 4:35 p.m. at The Lakeland Center.

Free throws: This is the second straight state semifinal for both Union County and West Gadsden. Last year the Tigers lost to Hawthorne 56-53 while the Panthers fell to Chipley 62-53. Chipley beat the Hornets for the state title. Both coaches, Rufus Jefferson at Union County and Andrew Moten (former standout UF guard) at West Gadsden, are in their third year at their schools. The Tigers are led by senior point guard Shaimea Maeweather (18.3 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 3.8 apg.), who has hit on 61 percent (70 of 115) on his 3-point attempts. Sophomore Keldric Bradley had a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for Union in its regional final win at Baldwin. The Panthers, who had victories over both Ocala Forest and Vanguard at the Kingdom of the Sun tournament, are led by senior point guard Brandon Shingles (19.0 ppg.), a first-team all-state performer as a junior. Moten's 1,930 points ranks second all-time at UF in scoring.

Who: Hawthorne (28-1) vs. Bonifay Holmes County (18-8)

When: Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

Rankings: Hawthorne is ranked No. 1 by Source Hoops and No. 3 by MaxPreps; Holmes County is No. 4 (SH) and No. 13 (MP)

Webcast: fhsaa.playonsports.com/events/50791

How they got here: Hawthorne def. Hamilton County 63-53 in Saturday's regional finals, def. Melody Christian 73-55 in the regional semifinals; Holmes County def. Malone 55-47 in the regional finals, def. Paxton 72-51 in the regional semifinals.

What's next: The winner will face winner of Union County-West Gadsden in Wednesday's Class 1A state championship at 4:35 p.m. at The Lakeland Center.

Free throws: The Hornets are making their second straight trip to Lakeland, and are looking for their first state title since 1987. Hawthorne has won 14 straight since losing to Class 7A East Ridge 65-58 in the championship game at the Hitchcock Challenge. It is led by sophomore Ed Porter, who last year played at Gainesville High. Porter averages a double-double (19.0 ppg., 10.0 rpg.). The Hornets, which returned a bulk of their players from last year's state runner-up team, is also led by seniors Leamon Wilson (9.9 ppg., 7.4 rpg) and Nick Chisholm (8.9 ppg.). The Blue Devils are led by 6-foot-10 UF signee Chris Walker, who had 28 points, 22 in the second half, in an upset of No. 2 Malone in the Region 1 finals.

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