PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Port St. Joe girls basketball season ended with a 19-11 record and a loss to Trenton in Monday's state semifinal, but the boys continue on Tuesday night.
Standing in their way of a Final Four appearance is Franklin, a fourth meeting secheduled for the Seahawks’ gym Tuesday night. The Sharks have lost all three previous meetings this season, most recently by eight points in the district final.
The boys team (15-12) hopes to join not only the girls squad, but the football and baseball teams with another Final Four run in the last year, doing it with athletes who played in one or both boys state semis.
Kendre Gant, Bubba Ash, Drew Jones, Gene Quinn, Isaiah Wright, and Octavyous Russ have all made it to a 1A semi in at least one sport, with the baseball team taking home a state championship.
A lot of familiar faces, and a whole lot of athleticism on the court.
"It's special," head coach Sandy Quinn said. "I've been with these kids since they were seventh graders coaching them in middle school and they were always two or three sport stars. I'll tell you what, when you know you've got those kinds of kids on your team, you feel good that it don't matter who you're playing; you step on the court, you know you've got a great chance because you've got some of the best athletes that's in that school playing for you."
To finally break through against Franklin (19-8), what needs to go different this time?
To paraphrase Coach Quinn, put more shots in the basket...besides the obvious, don't spot them 20 points. That happened once before, although the Sharks battled back to turn it into competitive game in the second half.
Although the girls team couldn't break through for their first state championship, the boys are using their back-to-back appearances in Lakeland as motivation.
"They were here watching the girls when they won to clinch it and go to the Final Four," Quinn said. "They were like, 'man, that could be us next week. That can be us next week!' They're excited to try to get their opportunity to do the same."
The boys basketball program hasn't reached the state semifinals since Derek Kurnitsky was coach. If the outpourings of support for the baseball and football teams are any indication, a deep run in the 1A tournament would be a huge deal in the community.
"The town would be ecstatic," Quinn added. "It'll be real excitement for this community, especially with what we've all been through."
From baseball season to football season, from Hurricane Michael to now, most of the players have been through it together.
They hope to go through Lakeland together too.