The Hornets will continue their tournament play against Hilliard in the region semifinals of the Boys Basketball 1A State Tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m. Hawthorne moves on to the state tournament level after beating Newberry 48-47 in the 1A District 6 Championship on Feb. 10. Led by Head Coach Greg Bowie, the team looks to start their road to the state final with a win over the Red Flashes.
Hawthorne’s Wild Finish Against Newberry
After being down 10 at the half, Hawthorne would rally back to be down by one with 17.9 seconds to go. Bowie describes the chain of events that would follow as “crazy.”
In the final moments, the Hornets would drive inside and would miss three close-range shots. But as the ball bounced back to Isaac Taplis, he tapped the ball in to beat the Panthers at the buzzer.
Buzzer Beater!!! Hawthorne upset Newberry to win district title!!! pic.twitter.com/W2bRzELTGN
— Alex Washburn (@alex_washburn20) February 11, 2023
Bowie said the win against Newberry has given the team confidence in heading into the regional semifinals. He acknowledges the high caliber team that the Panthers were this season and that the game was a great test for the Hornets.
Hawthorne Preparing for Hilliard
The Red Flashes enter this game after beating Madison County 63-49 in the Boys Basketball 1A District 5 Championship. The team has been red hot this season with a 20-4 record and are currently on a 10-game winning streak.
However, Hawthorne has already played Hilliard once this season. In their last meeting, the Hornets won the competitive overtime matchup, beating the Red Flashes 70-69. After the game, Bowie said the opposing team has a “really good backcourt.”
Senior Brian Blue and sophomore CJ Hall combined for 51 points, with Hall scoring 35. But with Senior Stanley Cooks‘ 24 points and nine rebounds, the Hornets were able to squeeze away with the victory.
Bowie said he knows that Hilliard have gotten better but so has his team. Hawthorne is on a two-game win streak.
The coach said the rivalry with the Red Flashes and other 1A teams are healthy. He said all the teams value winning the same and that although they are the smallest classification, people should not underestimate them.
Bumps in the Road for Hawthorne
The Hornets’ route to the regional semifinals has not been easy, as it has not been for others. However, the basketball team suffers from the school’s success on the field. Hawthorne’s football team finished their season 12-0 and won the 2022 FHSAA Football State Championships 1 Rural Tournament. But several of the players on the championship team are playing basketball this season.
Bowie said it takes a while for the basketball team to gel and get their legs back under them after the football season. He said there is a common misconception that after playing one sport that you are in shape to play another, when in reality, each sport has separate conditioning levels. However, he expects by the time that district tournament competition starts, that players are ready to go.
Bowie said another challenge for the Hornets this season has been trying to get his team on board with Hawthorne’s culture. He said that him and his staff are mostly alumni, and they want the boys to know what it means to play for the school.
The coach said he has noticed that the team has begun to buy into the message through their games against Fort White and Newberry.
What Could Be Next for Hawthorne
The winner of this game will advance to the region finals and play against the winner of Newberry and Madison County.