The Port St. Joe girls basketball team celebrated Senior Night in a big way, ending their regular season by polishing off the Leon Lady Lions of Tallahassee 63-39 on Saturday..
Earlier in the week, the Tiger Sharks easily defeated North Bay Haven 69-31 on Tuesday, Jan. 25, before falling to Bay High of Panama City 82-62 on Thursday.
Against the North Bay Haven Lady Buccaneers, the Sharks increased their seven-point first quarter lead with a 27-11 burst to take a 43-20 halftime lead.
Not letting up, St. Joe solidified their lead with a 20-8 third quarter before letting the starters have a rest in the final frame.
In something of a breakout performance, junior post player Mari Johnson led the team with 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the floor, and swept the glass for 13 rebounds.
Junior point guard Jae Lenox added 18 points, dished out three assists, and snatched four steals. Senior Amani Jones scored 14 points, including 6 of 6 from the charity stripe, to complement her nine boards and three blocks.
Sophomore Ty’Shawn Shackleford had six rebounds to go with her seven points.
As a team, St. Joe hit 15 of 22 free throws and pulled down 40 rebounds, half of them offensive, and committed grand larceny by stealing the ball 17 times from the Buccaneers.
Thursday night was not so kind for the Sharks as the Bay Tornadoes flexed their 4A muscles and won by 20 points, despite Johnson’s whopping 32 points and 17 rebounds.
Missing Lenox and her 16 points per game average, the Sharks had no answer to the combination of Lisa Lopez (26 points) and Saniyah Smiley (18 points) as Bay raced to a 37-20 halftime lead on their way to victory, in spite of being outrebounded 38-29.
Sophomore Tiger Shark guard Alonah Segree contributed 11 points, Jones added 10, and senior guard Mimi Larry dished out 10 assists, but the Tornadoes proved too strong on this night.
Back in action on Saturday against the visitors from Tallahassee, a Class 6A school, Lenox scored 15 points and handed out eight assists. As a team, the Sharks found their teammates for a total of 19 assists..
Jones took scoring honors with 19 points and shared control of the boards with Johnson as they both pulled down 12. Johnson scored nine and had five assists, while Larry found the basket for eight points along with four assists. Senior Shadavia Hudgins had seven points and pulled down three rebounds.
Ahead only 22-17 at halftime, the Sharks stretched the lead to 13 points at the end of the third quarter, but really put the game away after the Lions switched to full court pressure following a timeout with 5:47 remaining.
Much to the delight of the local fans, this backfired on Leon as the Sharks increased the lead with two easy layups by Jones and Larry before Larry sank a wide-open three.
After Lenox sank two free throws, she found Jones twice and Johnson for more easy layups to complete a 15-2 St. Joe run after the pressure defense began.
With a 59-33 lead, head coach Kenny Walker emptied the bench with 1:34 on the clock, and a few seconds later, perhaps the loudest cheer of the night erupted when seventh grader Jayla Hill banked in a shot from the free throw line for the Sharks.
Segree’s subsequent steal and free throw would end the St. Joe 23-point fourth quarter, and bring the contest to an end for the 14-7 Sharks.
Junior Madeline Penney led the 12-10 Lions with 14 points.
On Tuesday, Feb. 1, St. Joe started their quest for a division title with a game against the winless Wewahitchka Gators, to be played at the Liberty County gym.