Hawthorne Hornets 48 Newberry Panthers 47
Sometimes the smallest margins determine the outcome of a game, and this was the best example possible. Hawthorne, the standard athletic department for small schools in the area, tasted their own blood this season entering only 8-6. Newberry, who has made it their mission to dethrone the king, had a golden opportunity on their home floor to win their first district title since 2004. What fans in the sold-out area got was an instant classic.
“It feels great. I want to continue doing the same thing moving forward and win the state championship.”-Isaac Taplis
Newberry got off to a hot 8-0 run to start the game. Senior guard Mason Smith made highlight play after highlight play with beautiful passing and clutch perimeter shooting. The Hornets had some early frustration with the officiating, but Senior forward Tyler Jefferson made big baskets from offensive rebounds to keep his team in the game. At the half, the Panthers led the way 27-17.
Grit and grind was Hawthorne’s theme coming out of the break. They began to force long possessions on both ends of the floor bringing the well-oiled Panther offensive movement into a struggle. Newberry’s lead was cut to three at the end of the third quarter as both sides locked horns into the fourth.
Each team was desperate to score but neither squad could buy a bucket. Fouls began to build up as the game shifted to a free-throw shooting contest. For almost five minutes of gameplay, no field goals were made. Hawthorne star CJ Ingram rose to the occasion with an alley-oop slam tying the score at 40. Back and forth the teams went entering the final minute of play with Hawthorne up one.
Both defenses forced timeouts and turnovers as the clock began to tick down. Still trailing by one Newberry’s Smith stole the ball and hit a turnaround fadeaway jump shot with 17.9 seconds left. Down one, Hawthorne called a timeout. Ingram was given the nod to win the game. He dribbled the ball till the clock got under 10 and drove into the paint. The layup was no good, but the ball was still live.
Both teams scrambled for the rock until it landed in the hands of Hawthorne’s Isaac Taplis. He quickly put up a shoot, but it missed again. As if the basketball gods wanting to give him one more chance, the ball came right back to Taplis and he drained the winner as time expired. Incredible matchup, atmosphere and finish.
Buzzer Beater!!! Hawthorne upset Newberry to win district title!!! pic.twitter.com/W2bRzELTGN
— Alex Washburn (@alex_washburn20) February 11, 2023
Hawthorne will advance in the playoffs and Newberry likely will as well given their strong regular season resume. If so, the Panthers will be hungry for a rematch.
Hawthorne game leaders: CJ Ingram with 18 points, Isaac Taplis with 10 points, and Tyler Jefferson with five points and 12 rebounds.
Newberry game leaders: Mason Smith with 13 points and three assists, and senior Mike Moore fouled out with 10 points.