Last week, on Friday night in Eastpoint, the Seahawks basketball team was hungry for more than Christmas dinner.
Because he drew a pair of technical fouls two Fridays ago at South Walton, Franklin County High School Coach Mike Sweatt had been fined and drew a heavy suspension, or was what assistant coach Jeremy Williams called “wrongfully suspended,” for six weeks by the Florida High School Athletic Association - an action that, unless overturned and so far it has not been, will mean Sweatt can only conduct practices and make no appearances at any games until the end of the regular season.
The Seahawks’ appetites were whet because their bellies lacked anything resembling a lavish meal of victories so far this season, a mere two wins in their first 10 games, and neither of them in the district.
They were hungry, yes, but still Williams had concerns the Seahawks would do as they’ve done before: Build a lead, fail to hold it, then struggle, unsuccessfully, to get it back.
“We’ve been having a bad habit of letting teams come back on us,” said Williams, an Apalachicola Shark player under coach Joe Hayes who graduated in 2005. “This time we performed in the clutch.”
Lady Seahawk coach Carlos Hill sat quietly on the far end of the bench the entire game, didn’t get involved, so Williams’ first win as a varsity coach was entirely his own. And with Sweatt out of pocket, because a ref thought he complained too much about the officiating, the Seahawks head coach had to learn of the win right after it happened, since his players insisted he be the first they called.
Here’s what took place Friday night at Franklin County High School.
The Seahawks were up 14-11 after two quarters, and 26-23 at the half against Coach Derek Kurnitzky’s team from Gulf County. The Seahawks kept the pace up in the third quarter, and expanded the lead to six points, 39-33 going in to the final quarter.
Stepped-up Tiger Sharks play led to them knotting the score at 45 with a little more than four minutes left in the game.
After a loose ball tussle at midcourt, officials called a technical foul on Hawk sophomore guard Kelsey Jones, who had been expressing his disgust with facial expressions.
Port St Joe eighth grader Jacorian Callaway nailed a trey to increase his team’s lead to four, but the Hawks sliced it in half when Carza Harvey came back with a bucket.
The Sharks went into a stall, which led to Callaway going to charity stripe, where he nailed one of two free throws for a 50-47 lead with two minutes left.
The Hawks’ Jones hit a free throw, which was nullified by a lane violation, and then he sunk a basket, but that was nullified by a traveling violation.
A St. Joe bucket gave them a five point lead, 52-47 with precious little time left on the clock.
“Then we started to foul and it worked out,” said Williams. “I had to calm them down. I told them go ahead and foul again but to go for the ball.”
Sharks senior Ramello Zaccaro missed a pair of free throws and after Jones hit one of his, to move the Hawks with four, Shark freshman Chad Quinn missed both of his from the charity stripe.
It was then, with 16 seconds left, that the dinner landed on the plate.
“I told them take the threes, I yelled it as loud as I could,” said Williams.
And that is what happened, first by Jones, from the corner baseline near the bench.
The crowd erupted in cheers.
After Callaway hit only the second of his free throws, the score stood 53-51, with the Hawks behind.
“I called timeout, and I told them and do the screen if you could pick and roll to the big, or shoot the mid range shot. I told them whichever one of you all get it, try to get a screen at the middle of the court,” said Williams. “It didn’t go as planned.”
Instead, a swift pass to Harvey outside the arc gave him a clear shot at the basket, and with six-and-one-half seconds left, he nailed the trey to put the Hawks ahead 54-53.
St. Joe had a last chance.
“I told them don’t foul, and we went to a man-to-man press full court,” said Williams. “I said try to slow them down.”
Port St. Joe managed to pass out of the trap, but the shot was off, and the crowd stormed the floor, lifting Harvey in the air.
Jones led the team with 17 points, including 5/8 from the field and 6/10 from the free throw line. Harvey was next with 13 points, going 5/10 from the field and 1/ 2 from the free throw line.
Ladarius Rhodes followed with a dozen points, with Skyler Hutchinson tallying six, Chase Golden four and David Butler two. In all the Hawks show 17/47 two-pointers, under 40 percent, and 3/11 treys, under 30 percent. The hawks were 11/27 from the free throw line, about 40 percent.