LAKELAND, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Port St. Joe's fourth girls basketball Final Four in the last five seasons ends with a 33-32 loss to Hawthorne on a free throw in the final minute, a runner-up finish just shy of the program's first state title.
The Hornets led 16-15 at the half, never leading by double digits. Up by six with four minutes to go, clutch buckets by Jae Lenox and Mari Johnson pulled the Lady Sharks to a 32-32 tie with two minutes left until a free throw wound up being the difference.
Lenox, a freshman, led the team with 13 points on 6-18 shooting.
Without any seniors and several players with experience in multiple state tournaments, they may be poised to make a crack at it again next year.
"They've done a good job," head coach Kenny Parker said after the game. "It didn't end the way we wanted it to end. We didn't want to be runners up, we wanted to be champs. We've got to get back to the drawing board, get started against next summer. But, heck of a job. They improved from last year. Now we've got to do some more improving, improve a little more and get a few more people. That experience will help."
In between Wednesday's semifinal win over Madison and Friday's final, the Sharks hung out, visiting the mall, eating together, and holding a practice. Parker says if previous trips are any indication, those memories will last longer than the box scores.
"I had a couple of people tell me that a couple of years back. The memories you're giving them right now, they don't understand but several years or ten years from now, they'll never forget this."
The Sharks finish with a 26-6 record.
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