LAKELAND — Hawthorne only had four team fouls, and it turned out to be the most important stat next to the final score.
No. 3 Hawthorne (29-2) won its first girls basketball state championship in the program’s history, edging No. 9 Port St. Joe 33-32 on Friday in the FHSAA Class 1A state championship game.
“We just knew we had to stayed focused and play our game,” Hawthorne head coach Cornelius Ingram said. “We knew we could get stops. I credit our defense for this win.”
Trailing by a point with the ball and 5.6 seconds remaining, Hawthorne called a timeout and set up its attempt at a game-winning shot.
But when point guard Jae Lenox had the ball at the top of the key, she was quickly tied up by Hawthorne guard Antania Mason, who was able to get the jump ball signal from the referee.
“We had a couple of fouls to give so we were willing to foul,” Ingram said. “They had a great point guard, but down the stretch we showed a lot more and got some stops. “
The possession arrow favored Hawthorne and it was able to run the clock out for with win.
“We were trying to foul her,” said Mason, who led Hawthorne with 12 points. “It feels good to be a state champ. It’s my senior year, and I had to go out with a bang.”
Port St. Joe head coach Kenneth Parker said he wanted to run a back door play from the corner and get a driving layup for the win at the buzzer.
“I didn’t think they were going to try to foul but they were going to have to,” said Parker, whose team reached the state semifinals last year. “I called a stack on the sideline and our point guard went the wrong way. I wanted to get the ball in the corner to get the layup.”
Lenox led all scorers with 13 points, but she had problems with her shoe coming off during the game. Additionally, Mari Johnson and Mimi Larry had seven points each for Port St. Joe.
Hawthorne was clinging to a 25-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter and had held just 16-15 halftime lead.
The first quarter ended in a 6-6 tie although Port St. Joe (26-6) picked up its fifth team foul before the quarter ended, but outrebounded Hawthorne 11-7 in the quarter.
Hawthorne reached the title game by upsetting top-ranked Bonifay Holmes County 50-48 on last Wednesday while Port St. Joe beat Madison County 51-48 in the semifinals.
Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@theledger.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports