The Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School girls’ basketball team has come to add Lakeland to the schedule every year.
For the second-straight year, and the third time in the past five, the Lady Tiger Sharks (19-10) are headed back to the Class 1A state Final Four after a 50-43 victory Tuesday over Jay.
Port St. Joe will play Trenton at 12 p.m. ET Monday.
Taking into account the loss of three of its top four scorers, including all-state player Teiyahna Hutchinson, and the fact that the top three scorers this year are a pair of eighth-graders and a freshman, another trip to the Final Four is quite the achievement.
“We concentrated a lot on defense (this season) and I think they really bought in and we played some really tough teams to prepare for this situation,” said Port St. Joe coach Kenny Parker.
“We had our hands full tonight. They played us all the way to the end.”
The game was close throughout, an early 9-5 Port St. Joe lead, which was 21-17 at halftime, was just 31-29 entering the final period.
“It looked like whenever we got ready to pull away, they always made a run and made it back tight,” Parker said of Jay. “They were determined to win.
“I’ve been in playoff situations like that before and you’re not just gonna blow a team out like that, especially with the young girls we have.”
Jae Lenox led the way for Port St. Joe with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists with Mimi Larry adding 12 points.
Te-Te Croom had eight points and eight rebounds.
Port St. Joe 39, Freeport 19
Port St. Joe jumped to a huge early lead en route to a 39-19 victory over Freeport in a Region 2-1A regional semifinal.
The Lady Tiger Sharks opened up a 20-6 first-quarter lead and stretched the margin to 35-8 heading into the locker room at intermission.
However, Mari Johnson, who has been a standout scoring and rebounding inside, became sick and was unavailable during the second half.
The Lady Tiger Sharks were also dealing with growing foul issues and slowed the pace in the final two quarters, not even scoring in the third.
Lenox led the way for Port St. Joe with 22 points, six assists and two steals.
Johnson had seven points, eight rebounds, two blocks and an assist in the first half alone.
Shadavia Hudgins added five points and two rebounds, Larry three points, four rebounds, two blocks and an assist, Croom two points, 13 rebounds and a block and Quinci Elphinstone five rebounds and three steals.