The finish was controversial.
The officiating, as seen through a lens tinged in purple-and-gold left much to be desired.
The result for the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School girls’ basketball team was a disappointing 33-32 loss to Hawthorne in the Class 1A title game in a hotly-contested battle last Friday in Lakeland.
The loss was the first against a Class 1A opponent all year for Port St. Joe.
The contest was so intensely-contested that several fistfights broke out in the stands, primarily due to issues with the officiating, and Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton was asked to defuse a situation around halftime.
The play was tight and low-scoring throughout, both teams pressing defensively at times, and Hawthorne opened a 16-15 halftime lead after the teams ended the first period knotted at 6-all.
The play was back-and-forth in the second half, amid fights in the stands, with Port St. Joe tying the score at 32-32 with 2:00 left.
But Hawthorne hit one of two from the foul line at that point and a last-second Port St. Joe missed and Hawthorne escaped.
Jae Lenox led Port St. Joe with 13 points and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Mari Johnson had seven points, eight rebounds, an assist and two steals and Mimi Larry also scored seven points.
India Gant chipped in three points, seven rebounds and a steal and Amani Jones has two points and eight rebounds.
The Lady Tiger Sharks also blocked six Hawthorne shots, three by Jones; Gant, Larry and Johnson added the others.
Port St. Joe shot 30 percent from the field.
If there is a silver lining or element of a moral loss it is this: in the Final Four the Lady Tiger Sharks faced two teams with rosters dotted by seniors and juniors.
And Port St. Joe (26-6) came within a point of winning a state title with an eighth-grader, three sophomores and a freshman playing the vast majority of minutes.
This was a third consecutive trip to the Class 1A semifinals for the Lady Tiger Sharks and the second trip to the title game.
It sure seems likely they’ll be back.
Port St. Joe 51, Madison County 48
Starting against a taller more experienced lineup (all senior starters) the Lady Tiger Sharks played outstanding defense and held their own on the board.
Port St. Joe held Madison County too just 29 percent shooting while the Lady Tiger Sharks shot 40 percent from the field.
Madison County won the battle of the boards, but just 39-33, and Jones and Johnson each contributed a double-double.
Further, Johnson (three) and Jones (four) combined for seven blocks.
Neither team enjoyed a lead more than five points.
Madison County was up 14-13 after the first period and 28-24 at halftime.
But the Lady Tiger Sharks took lead they would not relinquish in the third period.
Johnson led Port St. Joe with 14 points, 11 rebounds an assist and a steal.
Jones added 10 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals and Larry also scored in double figures with 13 points, adding two rebounds and four assists.
Lenox added six points, five assists and two rebounds, Gant four points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal and Jahneese Braithwaite four points and a rebound.