Hawthorne Girls Basketball Survives Hilliard, Advances To Regional Final

By Wade Urtz and Jesse Bratman

HAWTHORNE The top seed Hawthorne High School girls basketball team advanced to the 1A regional final Wednesday after winning their 16th consecutive game.

The Hornets (19-3) defeated Hilliard (12-14), 38-27, despite having leading scorer De’Mya Adams out with an ankle injury. 

Hawthorne Leads After The First 

With their starting point guard out, Lakijah Brown did most of the ball handling. Hawthorne center Ranicia Coleman was getting doubled-teamed in the post by the Hilliard 3-2 defense after two early layups.

Hawthorne came out in its signature full-court press to put pressure on Hilliard’s guards to get the ball up court. After two 3-point shots by Hilliard’s Molly Dean, the score was 11-9 after eight minutes of play. 

“We had to switch the lineup and make some adjustments coming into the game,” Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram said. “We had a slow start.”

A low-scoring second quarter 

One of those adjustments by Ingram was having junior center Jhalea Jackson, who normally plays in the post, at the top of the key in their zone offense.

Jhalea Jackson (23) scores a tough layup in the second quarter Wednesday. [Jesse Bratman]
“Jhalea played point guard for a lot of the first half when she is usually in the paint being dominant,” Ingram said. 

Hawthorne struggled to get the ball inside to Coleman with the Hilliard double-team. Defensively, Hawthorne halted its press and ran a 2-3 zone. The Hornets used their size down low to force Hilliard to shoot from the perimeter. Turnovers and missed 3-point shots caused Hilliard to only score four second-quarter points.

Multiple times in the second quarter, Hawthorne’s guards held the ball at the top of the key for an extended period of time, which reduced attempted shots and scoring. Hawthorne’s six second-quarter points made the score 17-13 at half. 

“We were just trying to settle down and catch our breath,” Ingram said. “In a short rotation, you have to use different methods.” 

Fast third quarter

Hawthorne came out of halftime with a new energy. The Hornets opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run. Zakena Ealy scored the first five points for the Hornets in the second half, including a 3-pointer to open the half. The team responded to Ingram’s changes.

“We felt like some of our zone plays would work. I called a couple of different ones coming out of the half and all three were successful,” Ingram said of the halftime adjustments. 

Hawthorne closes it out 

Hawthorne entered the fourth quarter with a 26-18 lead. Hilliard began fouling the Hornets midway through the quarter, to get back into the game. Free-throw shooting was crucial for Hawthorne to keep the lead. 

Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram speaks to his team during a timeout Wednesday. [Wade Urtz]
Brown came in clutch for the Hornets in the fourth quarter. She hit five free throws in the fourth quarter, helping to see them over the line. Dean put pressure on Brown by face-guarding her, trying to cause turnovers for Hilliard in the fourth quarter. 

“I just put my head down and took care of the ball,” Brown said. 

Up Next

Hawthorne hosts Madison County (21-4) at 7 p.m. Monday in the region final. Madison County beat Newberry 60-54 on Wednesday to advance. 

A win in the regional finals would see Hawthorne advance to the state semifinals. 

2024 Girls Basketball State Tournament 1A

About Wade Urtz

2nd year student at the University of Florida majoring in Sports and Media Journalism. Orlando born and raised. Always looking for a game to learn about, cover and enjoy.

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