The Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School boys’ basketball team entered last week’s District 4-1A tournament in search of momentum.
The Tiger Sharks (17-8) found it at Bozeman High School, the host school for the district playoffs.
Port St. Joe, which entered the tournament having lost three of its last four regular-season games, won three in a row, the last a 64-53 title game win over Franklin County, which had beaten Port St. Joe twice in the regular season.
Taking the district title earned the Tiger Sharks the right to host a Region 2-1A semifinal 7 p.m. ET tonight when Malone (19-6) comes to “The Dome.”
A win over Malone would push the Tiger Sharks to the region finals Tuesday against the winner of Franklin County versus Vernon at Vernon.
“Our kids came out of the gate running,” said Port St. Joe coach Sandy Quinn, Jr. of the title game. “We played tremendous defense and shot the ball very well in the first half.”
Port St. Joe was up 25-23 at the half but a Franklin County spurt gave the Seahawks the lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
With the Tiger Sharks down six, Quinn called a timeout to settle his team.
Out of the timeout Jy’trel Riley hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to three and two defensive stops followed by baskets gave Port St. Joe a lead it would not surrender.
“We defended well and the kids were excited to bring the district championship back home to Port St. Joe,” Quinn said.
Riley led Port St. Joe with 24 points with Demarion Gray adding 16 points.
Neshon Gadson and Trey Jones each had eight points.
Port St. Joe 43, Blountstown 32
In a district semifinal, Blountstown tried to slow the pace, but Port St. Joe prevailed behind the outside shooting of Riley and balanced work on the boards.
“We played well in spurts,” Quinn said. “The players were excited because we just watched the game before and Franklin County pulling off a major upset by beating the number one seed Crossroads Academy.
“(Franklin County) was the game the kids and coaches wanted.”
The Tiger Sharks shot 5-12 from beyond the 3-point arc after shooting 1 of 8 in the district tournament opener against Wewahitchka.
Riley was responsible for all five conversions, shooting 5 of 8 from long distance and finishing with 20 points.
Gray and Lajuan Zaccaro each chipped in nine points and Zaccaro had a team-high seven rebounds.
Gadson led Port St. Joe with five assists.
Port St. Joe 78, Wewahitchka 46
With five players scoring in double-digits the Tiger Sharks, playing host in the district tournament’s opening round, easily dispatched the county rival Gators.
In addition to balanced offense, the Tiger Sharks were thieves on defense with 22 steals.
“We came out of the gate fast,” Quinn said. “Our kids knew how important every game is going forward.
“My message was you win two this week you are in the playoffs; you win three you are district champions and host the first round of the region. The players bought in and we defended and played well.”
Riley led all scorers with 15 points and Zaccaro added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Trey Jones and Gadson each scored 10 points and Lamarius Martin added 10 points, five assists and four steals.