For the tenth consecutive year, the Port St. Joe girls basketball team earned a district championship.
The Lady Tiger Sharks left the Wewahitchka gym on Friday, February 3, holding the 1A District 4 trophy after a convincing, albeit turnover-plagued, 60-39 win over the Aucilla Christian Warriors (18-6) of Monticello.
St. Joe overcame 31 turnovers and an early 4-0 Warrior lead behind double-doubles from post players Mari Johnson and Ty’Shawn Shackleford, who together swept the glass for 36 of the 48 total Shark rebounds during the game.
Johnson, who averages 14.9 boards a game, pulled down 26 to go along with her 16 points, while Shackleford had 10 rebounds and 14 points.
For Johnson, one of only two Tiger Shark seniors, this would be her 11th double-double of the season.
Speaking to WMBB News 13’s Kaleigh Tingelstad after the game, Johnson said that “(Jae Lenox and I) have been playing on varsity since seventh grade, so to get this chance for six years in a row, that’s awesome, that’s perfect.”
Point guard Lenox, St. Joe’s other senior, also scored in double figures with 14 points, and joined the double-double club with 10 steals and six assists.
“Winning this championship is motivation,” said Lenox to Tingelstad. “We’re not done yet, and we (are) ready for whoever.”
Jayla Hills added eight points, Alonah Segree scored five, and Addy Silcox had three points to complete the Tiger Shark scoring for the evening.
Sammi Drawdy led the Warriors with 16 points, while Lena Kemmell added 13.
After Aucilla took a 4-0 lead in the opening minutes, St. Joe went on a 10-0 run before ending the first quarter with a 14-6 lead.
Holding a 28-17 lead at halftime, the Sharks increased their lead after three periods to 45-28 before taking a commanding 58-36 midway through the final frame and milking the clock from that point on.
When the final horn sounded and the St. Joe celebration began, Aucilla Christian head coach James Burkett said “we’ve had a good season. They have played hard, aggressive, (and) they’ve come together as a team.”
“Today, the shots didn’t fall, (and) St. Joe is a really good team.”
Burkett also complimented Drawdy and Kemmell, two of his seniors, for their consistently good play on the court, and added that based on the Warrior record, “we’ll probably be in the (regional) playoffs. We’ve got some changes to make.”
Tiger Shark assistant coach Keion McNair said that “staying after it on defense, and keeping them running” proved to be a major key to the win.
Led by Lenox, the Sharks came up with 18 steals and forced numerous Warrior turnovers with their constant full court press.
In Thursday night’s semi-final contests, both Port St. Joe and Aucilla Christian earned their ticket to the finals with easy wins.
Port St. Joe thrashed Franklin County (12-9) 72-28, while Aucilla disposed of their cross-town rival Jefferson County (4-17) 48-18.
With the district tournament being held at Wewahitchka High School, this required a long bus ride by the Warriors and Tigers, both of whom are located in Monticello.
As Warrior guard Lauchlin Faglie’s father commented, “We had to drive two hours to play a school that’s located eight miles from us.”
In Thursday’s game against Franklin County, St. Joe led only 6-3 after one period before outscoring the Seahawks 22-3 in the second quarter. Franklin County made a better effort in the third period, scoring 13 to St. Joe’s 16 before the Sharks “swallowed” the Seahawks 28-9 in the final period.
Lenox led all scorers with 26 and assisted in five more Shark scores. Johnson nearly had a quadruple-double with 18 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists, and nine steals.
Segree scored 14 points, pulled down six boards, and had eight steals. Shackleford added nine points and seven rebounds, Hills scored three points, and Silcox scored two points.
In their semi-final matchup with Jefferson County, Aucilla Christian held a 14-7 lead after one before putting a lid on the Tiger basket and holding them scoreless with a 13-0 second quarter.
The Warriors cruised after halftime with a 12-5 third quarter and a 9-6 final period to give them a 48-18 win.
The FHSAA released the regional brackets on Sunday afternoon, with Graceville #1, Port St. Joe #2, Aucilla Christian #3, and Liberty County #4.
So, Port St. Joe will be hosting Aucilla Christian on Thursday, February 9, at 7:00 p.m., and Graceville will host Liberty County the same night.
The two winners would then face each other on Tuesday, February 14, with the higher seed hosting.