The Franklin County boys basketball team bounced back Tuesday night from a post-Christmas road trip to Alabama, where they dropped a pair of close games in the 22-team tourney.
At Bay High School Tuesday, the boys won a close one 59-57, led by senior Simon Brathwaite, who had 18 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Lamarius Martin added 16 points and six rebounds, while senior Daijon Penamon had eight points and sophomore Eden Brathwaite eight rebounds.
But 16 turnovers were too many for coach Nathan West.
“I thought we did a good job at competing,” he said. “We gave up too many second-chance opportunities.”
He said Bay hit eight three-pointers. “Compliments to them as they played really well, really hard,” said West. “We have to do a better job at getting out and contesting shots and close driving gaps. Overall I thought we played a solid 32 minutes of basketball.”
The win followed a pair of four-point losses at the Hoover, Alabama Big Orange Classic, beginning with a 54-50 loss to Ellwood Christian on Dec. 27.
“We gave up 17 offensive rebounds, and had 14 turnovers and missed six free throws,” said West. “We gave them 31 extra possessions and lost by four.
“We didn’t play with a lot of energy, we didn’t play with a lot of heart. The stats speak for themselves,” West said. “The guys are in control of two things - attitude and effort. We weren’t really putting forth a lot of effort.”
Martin scored 12 points, and Simon Brathwaite 10.
“We missed a couple easy layups. They didn’t win it, we lost it,” said West. “We were up the entire game and they took the lead with about three minutes to go.”
On Friday, Dec. 28, the boys played Hamilton, a top 10-ranked Class 5A Alabama team, that came in 13-1. And the Seahawks fell 52-48.
“We missed 11 free throws in the second half,” said West. “We shot 6 of 17 free throws. We missed all our free throws in the second half.
“We shoot free throws all the time. To me tis all between the ears how you approach the free throw line,” said the coach. “We got to approach it better.”
The Hawks were down 11 at halftime and battled back, committing 11 turnovers for the game, under their 12 target. “We did a better job on the glass,” said West. “We gave up 11 offensive rebounds but only four in the second half
“The biggest thing we made a run there, we got down to a one or two-point game,” he said. “We would miss the front end of one-and-ones or miss both ends of shooting fouls.
“We make our free throws it’s a whole different ballgame,” West said.
Martin scored 21 and Simon Brathwaite 13 points, while junior Grady Escobar led with six rebounds.
The boys also had a chance to hear from Bill Jones, an Alabama Hall of Fame basketball coach from Jacksonville State University, who won a national championship there in 1985 in Division II.
“I’ve known Coach Jones since I was probably in eighth grade,” said West. “My high school coach played for him.”
The team practiced at Birmingham Southern, and Jones came by to give the boys some pointers.
“I think the road trip was a good learning experience for the guys. A lot of them hadn’t been away from home,” said West. “We had an early morning breakfast every morning, a little out of our routine.
“They didn’t respond very well that first night. I want them to understand you have to work for stuff. I don’t think we worked that hard that first game. We didn’t go out there and get after it.
“The second game we approached it a lot differently,” said West. “Overall it was a good learning experience, to play tough completion.”
Of the 22 teams at the Big Orange, “we were probably the smallest school there. If we want to get where I want to be, we have to learn to get out of our routine.
“If they want to make it to the Final Four and they play well enough to get there, they have to react to living on the road,” said West. “It was good for the guys to see some really good teams play. Overall, the thing was everyone played extremely hard, they really got after it.
“It was an eye-opener. Playing hard makes up for a lot of mistakes and the kids are in control of that,” he said. “Overall it was a good learning experience and I think we got closer as a team.
“Thursday’s loss bothered me and bothered the guys. They saw how disappointing their performance was,” West said. “We had a different mindset on Friday, and on Monday we approached practice a lot different.
“You never want to play your best basketball in December,” he said. “We’re progressing in more ways than one and hopefully we’re starting to grow up a little bit as a basketball team.”
On Friday evening the Seahawks square off against arch-rival Port Saint Joe at The Nest. Both are undefeated in the district.