Port St. Joe basketball fans witnessed two white-knuckler contests in the 1A D4 boys tournament this past week, as the Tiger Sharks squeaked by Jefferson County 40-39 in their semi-final game before losing to Franklin County 48-43 in the title match.
In Wednesday night’s semi-final, St. Joe took an early 2-0 lead on a LaJuan Zaccaro basket in the first minute, but would not score again until JD Becton connected on a free throw with a mere 37 seconds remaining in the first period.
During the drought, Jefferson County ran off nine points, and the quarter ended with the Tigers holding a 9-3 lead over the Tiger Sharks.
Behind Travis Jenkins’ seven points and Wills Norton’s five, St. Joe outscored the Tigers 18-11 in the second quarter to take a slim 21-20 halftime lead.
During the period, Zaccaro added four points and dished out three consecutive assists to teammates.
There would be six lead changes in the third period (14 for the game), which ended with the Tigers holding a 33-30 advantage.
After each team scored a basket to start the final period, the Sharks clawed their way back to hold a 38-35 lead with four minutes remaining on the clock.
There would be no more scoring by either team for nearly three minutes, but Jefferson County scored twice to take a 39-38 lead with only 41 seconds left to play.
Regaining possession following a Tiger infraction with only 22 seconds on the clock, the Sharks held the ball until Travis Jenkins drove to the right side and lofted up a soft runner from 10 feet that swished through the net, forcing a Tiger time out with 8.4 seconds remaining.
When both teams took the floor awaiting the Jefferson County inbounds pass, Tiger Shark coach Toney Powell called a time out of his own.
“I was trying to find out how they were setting up,” said Powell, “so we would know how to line up and identify their shooter.”
There would be no last second shot by the 8-16 Tigers, however, as the Sharks stole the ball and ran the clock out to preserve the win.
In addition to hitting the game winner, Travis Jenkins led the Sharks with 14 points. Zaccaro followed with 11, Norton added five, Becton scored four, and Chance Gainer, Jayden Jenrett, and Jay Stuckey each scored two.
For the first time this season, eighth grader Zay Jenkins went scoreless for the game. St. Joe’s leading scorer was hampered by two things on the night: a tight man-to-man defense by the Tigers, and a turned ankle suffered in the final two minutes of the first quarter.
“They paid him more attention this time,” said Powell. “They were well prepared for us today.”
The win set up a third matchup of the season between the Sharks and Franklin County for Friday night (February 10), this time with the district title at stake. The Seahawks easily defeated Aucilla Christian 67-39 in their semi-final game.
In the title game, Franklin County took a 16-11 lead after the first quarter, but St. Joe stormed back to take a 27-26 halftime lead.
The Seahawks, behind eight points by Ethan Kembro, controlled the third period and held a 39-33 lead going into the final quarter.
The Sharks cut the lead to two points at 42-40 midway through the fourth quarter, but Franklin County outscored St. Joe 6-3 during the final three minutes to preserve their victory and take the district title.
Zaccaro led the St. Joe scoring with 12 points, all in the first half, followed closely by Travis Jenkins with 11.
Zay Jenkins and Norton each scored five points, while Gainer and Stuckey added four points each, and Becton scored two points.
With the win, the Seahawks improved to 18-7 and moved on to regional competition, while the Tiger Sharks finished the season 10-12, doubling last season’s win total.