The Franklin County Seahawks varsity basketball team proved it isn’t over until it’s over, as they swooped back after trailing for three quarters to shock Port St. Joe Friday night, and hand the Tiger Sharks their first district loss.
Trailing at the half 28-24, and 39-36 after three quarters, the Seahawks took it to the Tiger Sharks in the final stanza, outscoring them 16-8, and coming back from Gulf County with a 54-47 win.
The team was led by 19 points from sophomore guard Jerymiah Stephens, who proved to be an enormous factor in that last quarter.
With the Seahawks trailing by five, 41-36, with six minutes left, Stephens got a steal and then drove the length of the court before being fouled on the layup. He then coolly sank both free throws.
Senior forward Ayden Pearson, who finished with nine rebounds and six points, then got a crucial blocked shot, one of five on the night. Stephens then nailed a 35-foot trey to tie the game at 41.
After his Seahawks fell behind by one, coach Kameron Ashabranner called a timeout.
Pearson then nailed a three-pointer in the corner off on out-of-bounds play, while being guarded by former Seahawk Lamarius Martin.
Franklin County, with a 44-42 lead, then held on, as Pearson scored a layup, Sophomore forward Carter Kembro then snared one of his 14 rebounds on the night, to go along with his eight points, and give the Hawks a three-point lead.
A layup by Stephens added to the cushion. "We kept the lead from there," said Ashabranner. "We controlled the game once we got the lead. We let them take some deep threes."
The win marked the fifth straight victory over the Tiger Sharks, dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season.
Junior guard Eden Brathwaite added 16 points and nine rebounds, plus two steals. Senior guard Grady Escobar drained a trey, and pulled dozen six rebounds.
Senior guard Isaiah DeCourcey, who has returned to Franklin County after starting the school year in Tallahassee, scored two.
Overall, the team hit 12 of 19 from the charity stripe, or 63 percent, and was 19 of 48 from the field, or 40 percent.
The team had 16 offensive rebounds, and 28 on defense, for a total of 44.
"It felt good beating them," said Ashabranner. "I think they never acted like they were going to lose. That’s a big part of it, having the confidence and knowing you put in the work to do it."
He said the team didn’t dwell much on facing Martin for the first time since he transferred from Franklin County a month or so ago. After a big first half, Martin had four points in the third, and none in the fourth, to finish with 19 points.
Ashabranner said the Tiger Sharks’ assistant coach Ray Bailey tried to use his knowledge of the Hawks’ offense to his advantage.
"A lot of stuff they’re running, the guys here ran last year," he said. "They were able to catch on to and put a stop to it."
On Monday, the team lost at home 61-54 to district rival Blountstown.
Leading at the half 22-19, the Seahawks were swamped by a 26-12 third quarter, and could not come back.
Senior guard Treven Smith poured in 22 points for Blountstown, whose squad also featured former Seahawk Javon Pride, who pulled down a lot of rebounds while scoring eight points.
Ashbranner said Blountstown forced the Seahawks to play man-to-man, and that made it difficult to keep up.
"I was pleased with our guys’ effort," he said. "They played extremely hard; plenty of times we could have quit."
Brathwaite led with 14 points and four assists, followed by Pearson with 10 points and Kembro with nine points and 14 rebounds. As a team the Seahawks shot 45 percent from the field.
Blountstown will be a key rival for the Seahawks, as Crossroad Academy and Port St. Joe now sit atop the district standings.
"Blountstown is pretty good, they’re very well coached," said Ashabranner. "St. Joe is going to be tough down the road, but Blountstown is just as important. We’re fighting for the two spot right now."
After squaring off against Liberty County Tuesday night, the team travels to Bozeman this Friday, as they gear up to welcome St. Joe to the Nest Jan. 25.
"We got a lot of heart and we play very well as a team," said Ashabranner. "I didn’t see one single time when anyone was selfish and didn’t think what was best for the team.
"We’re going to keep fighting," he said. "St. Joe will be a huge game."