Seahawks win district title, open regionals tonight against Baker 7 p.m. at The Nest.
If you live in Eastpoint, maybe somewhere around Yent’s Bayou, or at Gramercy Planation, don’t expect it to be quiet tonight.
Open the window to let in the warm air and you may just hear the entire campus of Franklin County High School beating like the wings of a giant Seahawk, inside the gymnasium nicknamed The Nest.
That’s because the biggest basketball game so far this year will tip-off starting at 7 p.m., as the Class 1A regional semifinals commence with 18-8 Franklin County, fresh from capturing their first District 4 crown in a decade after completing an undefeated conference season, take on the 12-6 Baker Gators, runner-up in District 3 to the west.
“Our mentality is this is just another game,” said Coach Nathan West. “We got to take care of business to get where we want to be. We just got to approach it knowing what the game plan is and don’t let the hype of the game get to us.”
West, his courtside persona cut more from the cloth of a composed Mike Krzyzewski than torn like a volatile Bobby Knight, did not spare praise for his players Tuesday night, after they withstood a pesky Port St. Joe comeback in Saturday night’s district title game in Wewahitchka, to secure a 53-45 victory, their third win this season over the Tiger Sharks.
Leading 44-27, Port St. Joe senior Isaiah Wright opened the fourth quarter with a trey, but Seahawk sophomore Lamarius Martin replied with a steal and a Franklin County score that kept them ahead by 16 points.
St. Joe senior Jan Lowe, a former Seahawk before transferring to Gulf County, then scored to ignite a nine-point run that forced West to call a timeout with his team ahead by seven, 46-39, with a little more than four minutes remaining.
“We knew they were going to go on a run,” said the coach. “We kept our composure. It wasn’t anything new to us.”
Senior Daijon Penamon then laid it up to boost the team’s lead, but a steal and score by St. Joe senior Kendre Gant, and two free throws drained by Penamon, kept it at nine.
With less than two minutes on the clock, Gant nailed both tries at the charity stripe, and following another West timeout, hit a jumper to slice the margin to five, 50-45, with about 30 seconds left in the game.
Penamon, who finished the game with 16 points, including two treys in the first quarter, hit a foul shot to give the Seahawks a six-point margin. Then, senior Isaiah DeCourcey, who tallied eight points, hit back-to-back free throws to ice the eight-point win.
“Daijon has been capable of that all year long," said West. "He does a great job handling ball pressure. He's not going to blow by you but he's good at changing speeds.
"In a situation like that, it's good to see a senior take over and say 'You know, I'll get the ball up the floor, I'll take over, give me the ball' and that was his mentality. That goes back to him being mentally prepared,” said West. “He played like a senior, he played like a veteran.
“I'm proud for the guys, they've earned it," said the coach. "They've worked hard for it. We knew it wasn't going to be given to us. They deserved it but they had to go out there and work and earn it, and I thought they did a good job competing.
"Our shooting percentage has been low, not because we can't shoot it but because of the shots we take," said West. “All week we worked hard on shooting with a high level of confidence our jump shot. That was our mindset all week and I thought they did a good job preparing mentally for it."
"When you're prepared for every game, you're going to get the results," said West.
Senior Simon Brathwaite led the team with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Martin, a bit under the weather, had eight points and eight assists. Overall, the team shot 9 for 15 from the three-point line, 7 for 11 in the first half.
Senior Mikalin Huckeba snared eight rebounds, and senior Alex Hardy brought down six.
“I thought we did a fairly good job on the glass,” said West. “We just got to keep that up. We have to lock down defensively and limit their second chance opportunity. If we’re going to compete, we’re going to have to defend all 32 minutes and do a good job on the glass. We buckle down defensively and get a rebound, we give ourselves a good chance to win.”
In the district semifinals Friday night, also at Wewahitchka, the Seahawks downed Altha 68-40. In the second game, Port St. Joe defeated Wewahitchka 63-52. Baker was runner-up in District 3 after falling to Chipley 65-62 at Chipley Friday night.
West has been reviewing film of the Baker Gators, and said the team plays hard.
“They have a couple kids who do a good job getting to the basket,” he said. “We beat them last year in the first round of the regionals, at their place.
“They’re going to come back in with a little revenge,” he said. “They’re going to play us hard. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.”