GIRLS BASKETBALL: CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINALS

Two of a kind

Hawthorne, Chiefland girls basketball play today at state, will boys' teams follow their lead?


Hawthorne's girls' basketball team will be playing in the Class 1A state tournament today in Lakeland, while the Hawthorne boys' basketball team hopes to follow next week.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.

When you mention how good the Hawthorne and Chiefland high school basketball teams are these days, you have to be more specific. Are you talking about the girls? The boys? Or both?

The girls and boys basketball teams at Hawthorne and Chiefland have been dominant this season, and last Friday, the girls teams punched their first ticket to the Class 1A state tournament.

Today at noon, in The Lakeland Center, No. 4 Hawthorne (25-3) takes on No. 5 Chipley (24-5) in the 1A state semifinals. Following that game, the other 1A semifinal pits No. 5 Chiefland (18-1) against No. 1 Paxton (24-3) at 1:30 p.m.

“Everyone is fired up about what the girls and boys teams have accomplished,” said Hornets girls coach Barry Hutchinson, a Hawthorne alum who is in his 12th season. “The boys were really excited for the girls.”

On Tuesday night, both Hawthorne and Chiefland boys moved one step closer to reaching state themselves, both winning their regional semifinal games. On Friday, the Hornets (22-5) travel to Jasper to take on Hamilton County (18-8) while the Indians (25-1) host Crescent City (14-7), a district rival it has beaten three previous times this season, all by three points.

But the stakes will be much higher this week.

Just like they were for the Hawthorne and Chiefland girls last Friday when the Hornets won at Hamilton County (51-50) on Keinetra Hill's basket in the final seconds and the Indians beat Wildwood (42-33) before a home crowd.

“It was a real hard-fought game between both teams, our girls were able to pull it out in the last second,” Hutchinson said. “We have been in situations before when we were down, but they have always been able to fight back. They show a lot character.”

“It felt good, last year they beat us,” said standout sophomore point guard Kimesha Mann. “We couldn't believe that we won. Hill made the winning shot after like two rebounds. I've been to state with my brother before but never been on the court.”

The Hornets have thrived this season without a senior on the roster and a year after Mariah Carter, who averaged double figures in points and rebounds, graduated.

“It is an exciting time for our basketball programs,” Hutchinson said. “I am very happy and excited to get there, it is more so for the kids than me. I graduated from Hawthorne and wanted to give back to the school.

“The high school is very important to the town and vice versa. It helps bring the community together. They have a lot to be proud of, the kids are giving their best. They can achieve if they play together.”

Hawthorne boys coach Greg Bowie, whose team is looking for its third straight state tournament berth, said there were many Hamilton boys players at last Friday's girls game and told his players they would see them this Friday.

“There is not as much pressure on the guys,” Bowie said. “For us to be in this situation where we have to win to go to state, it could be sweet considering we lost four seniors and Ed Porter transferred from last year's final four team. A lot of people were wondering about us, but we didn't think about last year's team. The guys have worked hard to get here.

“Last year's girls team with Mariah Carter was pretty good, but this year's team is fun to watch. They get up and down the court. They are close with the boys, kid around during school. The guys are enjoying the girls success right now.”

That can also be said in Chiefland, where the girls are making their first state appearance today and the boys are hoping to make a similar trip next week.

Brian Gore, in just his first season as coach, has the girls team two wins from their first state title.

“I wish I could take credit for it, but I have a good group of young girls that are willing to work hard and have played hard all season long,” he said. “They have made coaching easy.”

The Indians, who have one senior, have two six-footers in 6-2 freshman center Takiya London and 6-foot sophomore forward Sheila Engel. London leads the team, averaging 15.1 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

“To have a couple of six footers and a player at 5-10 (senior Brittany Gilliam), we can cause some matchup problems for some teams,” Gore said. “They are pretty athletic. From the very first meeting, I told them that anything shy of going to Lakeland would be a disappointment. The ability was there, it was a matter of how hard they were willing to work for it.”

Chiefland has won 16 straight games coming into today's contest against top-ranked Paxton. The Indians' only loss was the third game of the season at Hawthorne (34-25).

A rematch could happen in the state final, if both Hawthorne and Chiefland girls win today. That would be just fine with Indians' sophomore guard Emmarrie Carmen.

“I think we need some revenge,” she said. “No one expected us to be here. We came together as a team and we need to show people we are capable of winning it.”

Like at Hawthorne, the girls' biggest supporters are the boys team, which like them have only one loss on the season. Another win Friday and the Chiefland boys will making their first trip to Lakeland for the state tournament.

“Our boys have been really supportive of our girls,” Gore said. “They have been wishing us luck and the girls say they will try to warm up Lakeland for them.”

“We are all brothers and sisters, we are always talking to each other on and off the court,” Carmen said. “They are good on transitions on offense and defense. We get a lot of support from the community.”

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

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