Trailing by 5 with 5 minutes left, Seahawks force overtime, and come away with 56-49 victory in regional final

Four was a charm Tuesday night, as four quarters plus a four-minute overtime enabled Franklin County to defeat Port St. Joe for a fourth time this season, and earn a berth in in next week’s Class 1A Final Four.

The Seahawks’ 56-49 win over the Tiger Sharks came a decade after Franklin County’s last trip to Lakeland, and it didn’t come easy.

After opening up a seven-point lead late in the first half, when senior Daijon Penamon nailed his third of six three-pointers for the night, the Seahawks withstood an inside scoring attack by Tiger Shark seniors Kendre Gant and Jan Lowe to head into the locker room clinging to a slim 27-25 lead.

“Kendre Gant was doing a heckuva job and I told them we had to get stops. We weren’t getting stops,” said Coach Nathan West, whose team upped its record to 20-8, three of those wins coming against Port St. Joe, including a victory in the district final at Wewahitchka 10 days ago.

“Jan was doing a good job. Those two guys really hurt us in the first half,” said West.

Back to back buckets by seniors Gene Quinn and Isaiah Wright to open the second half gave the lead back to St. Joe, but the Seahawks regained it on a Penamon trey and a lay-up by sophomore Eden Brathwaite, which came after sophomore Lamarius Martin managed a shovel pass assist after tumbling to the ground in the scramble for a loose ball.

Two free throws by Lowe, and a bucket by Gant just before the end of the third quarter gave the Tiger Sharks a 35-32 lead heading into the final quarter.

“I told them if we were going to win that game we had to limit turnovers and just get defensive stops,” said West. “Offense will come, which it did, and we got defensive stops down the stretch.”

A bucket by senior Simon Brathwaite, who incidentally wears #4, cut St. Joe’s lead to one at the start of the quarter, but consecutive buckets by Wright upped the Tiger Sharks’ margin to five, 39-34.

“We got stagnant and we just started passing the ball around instead of trying to attack gaps and flash guys in the middle,” said West.

It was midway through the quarter Gant was slapped with back-to-back fouls, within seconds of each other, and Brathwaite hit both opportunities at the charity stripe to keep the game within reach.

Overall, though the Seahawks shot a dismal 9 for 22 at the free throw line, with St. Joe only one shot better, as they went 10 for 22.

“Missing the free throws early hurt us, because that would have have given us the lead which would have made them force shots, which is what we wanted them to do,” said West. “Limit them to one shot, which we didn’t do a bad job at. But two missed free throws is a bad as a turnover.

“We didn’t make free throws, we didn’t look real strong on offense,” he said. “We made a couple mistakes, I made a couple coaching mistakes. But the guys stayed composed.

“They do a good job of keeping their composure, “said the coach, now in his second season at the high school. “We’ve been in tough games before, in tough atmospheres.

“I thought the pressure might have got to us. I was scared it might but it didn’t,” he said. “We stayed composed.”

With his team trailing by five following a timeout by Port St. Joe coach Sandy Quinn, Penamon nailed back-to-back treys, to put the Seahawks up 42-41 with a minute-and-one-half left to play.

The lead flipped back to St. Joe after Quinn scored, and West called two timeouts in the last minute.

With 21 seconds left, Gant fouled out, and Penamon hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 43 and send the game into overtime.

“Daijon stepped up,” West said. “And on the bench, keeping everybody in the game.”

Absent their leading scorer, who finished with 16 points, the Tiger Sharks fell behind early when junior Grady Escobar, whose first three-point attempt had whizzed past the bucket with air to spare, drained a trey.

“He has short memory, a short-term memory and you have to have that when you play sports,” said West. “If you don’t you’re going to make more mistakes worrying about the last mistake, and that’s the worst thing somebody can do.”

Brathwaite and Martin each scored underneath to increase the margin to seven, a lead that stayed in place after Quinn missed both free throws on two occasions, and junior Ky’trel Riley had that happen once.

A trey by Lowe, who finished with 14 points to Gant’s 16, sliced the lead to four midway through the overtime period, but Brathwaite twice made 1 of 2 from the charity stripe to stave off a Port St. Joe comeback.

Riley managed to drive the length of the court, score and draw the foul, and sink the free throw to again make it a four-point game, but Martin followed suit by imitating the feat with 48 seconds left to account for the seven-point win, in keeping with the 58-48, 58-47 and 53-45 wins in the teams' first three encounters this season.

Riley scored 12, Wright eight and Quinn six for the Tiger Sharks, who finished the season at 15-13.

Penamon led all scorers with 23 points, with Simon Brathwaite contributing 15 and Martin 11. Sophomore Eden Brathwaite tallied five and Escobar three, as the team shot 21 of 44 from the field, and 7 of 16 three-pointers.

Wednesday will feature a light practice, as the team gets ready for a Monday semi-final game in Lakeland at noon against defending Class 1A state champion Wildwood, who downed Bell 62-53 Tuesday night to advance to Lakeland.

“We’re going to shoot around tomorrow. We’re just going to stay focused and stay with the plan,” West said. “We’re not finished.

“We’re not here by accident, we’re not going to Lakeland by accident. It’s not a fluke,” he said. “These guys have earned it, they deserved it. They’ve worked hard for it, all summer long. They’ve gone through a lot individually and as a team.

“We got a good shot at going on, as long as stay within our self here,” he said.