Seahawks coach Ray Bailey is confident that Tuesday night’s hosting of the Blountstown Tigers will not be a repeat of two weeks ago.
At that game, Franklin County were outscored 17-13 in the fourth quarter and sustained a 52-49 loss to their Class 1A regional rivals.
“I’m expecting us to play well, we should win by at least 10,” said Bailey, whose team is sporting a 12-4 record and an undefeated district record, making them likely to be the 1A District 4 top seed when the post-season begins early next month.
The Seahawks are coming off a pair of routs, against Jefferson County and Port St. Joe, and a 10-point loss to Class 6A Mosley.
While a four-point win doesn’t seem like a rout, the 59-55 win at home Jan. 10 against Jefferson County saw the Seahawks up 40-22 at the half, and by 27 points going into the fourth quarter.
But in the final stanza, the wheels nearly fell off the wagon, as the Tigers held Franklin County to two points in the fourth quarter and nearly stole the win.
“We relaxed, we missed a lot of one-and-ones and missed a lot of easy points around the basket,” said Bailey. “It had a domino effect. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Senior Jaidyn Rhodes was the only starter who didn’t see action in that final quarter, as an ankle injury had ended his night in the second quarter.
Senior Owen Poloronis led the team with 22 points, but hit just one of four three-pointers. He did sink nine of 12 free throws, as the team shot 58 percent from the charity stripe, hardly a percentage to brag about.
Eighth grader Sadiq Jones scored nine, and junior Ethan Kembro eight. Sophomore Ajaylen McNair tallied six, and senior Ta’Shawn Jones and Rhodes each four. Sophomore William Chastine nailed a three-pointer, junior Lonnie O’Neal a bucket, and eighth-grader Jeremiah Allen a free throw.
Kembro and Ta’Shawn Jones led the team with seven rebounds each, with Kembro blocking seven shots.
Against Mosley Jan. 12 in Lynn Haven, Rhodes was out with an ankle injury, and so the team was without his 6-foot 3-inch defensive ability.
The Seahawks led 26-23 at the half, after a 19-8 first quarter. “The first half overall I was pretty pleased,” said Bailey.
But in the second half, the Dolphins made maximum use of their six-foot six-inch sophomore center Raedyn Bruens, who scored a career-high 27 points.
“We wanted to front the post, to be in front of him with back side help,” said Bailey. “We don’t want to stay behind nobody. We have to use our quickness to our advantage and use backside help. We didn’t do that at all.
“They figured that out and they kept feeding him,” said the coach. “He imposed his will and there was nothing we could do.”
Down by 18 after being outscored 27-8 in the third quarter, the Seahawks managed to cut the lead down to seven before succumbing 65-55.
Poloronis lead the team with 22 points, including hitting three of six treys, with Ta’Shawn scoring 13 and Kembro 12. McNair contributed five and Sadiq Jones three.
Ta’Shawn Jones pulled down 14 rebounds, ahead of his 10 rebounds per game average. The team hit 19 of 28 from the free throw line, or 68 percent.
On Friday night, the Seahawks rallied after a lackluster first half to down the Tiger Sharks 71-36.
“The first half we were god-awful,” said Bailey. “In those rivalry games you force stuff and try to prove a point. We weren’t ourselves the first half.”
The Seahawks led 13-11 after the first quarter but then in the second quarter, with his team ahead 17-16, Kembro was fouled attempting a three-pointer, and then sank all three free throws to kick off a 12-0 run by the Seahawks.
Rhodes, who scored 16 for the game, had 10 of those during the second quarter.
With this being a rivalry game of sorts, emotions tend to run high. When asked about what he told his team after one chippy incident in the second quarter, Baileysaid “I just told our kids to keep a level head. It’s a rivalry, we’re all here to play and have fun. Don’t get into all that talking back and forth. “
The coach gave his team a tongue-lashing at the half. “We don’t play down to the level of competition,” said Bailey. “We came out in the second half and we were just a better team.”
Before the third quarter began, the three officials gathered both starting fives at midcourt and talked to them about on-court behavior. Nothing but basketball ensued the rest of the way.
After the third, the Seahawks led 48-23, allowing the Tiger Sharks only two points
In the fourth quarter, Poloronis, who tied Rhodes for high scorer with 16, had nine points, after scoring only three points in the first half.
“I knew from watching the game last night (against Wewa) that they were small, and all season long we’ve been outrebounding a lot of people. So we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of that height,” Bailey said. “We wanted to impose our will and use our size.”
Ta’Shawn Jones tallied 11 for the Seahawks, with Kembro scoring eight, Sadiq Jones six, Chastine five, Allen and O’Neal each four, and McNair one, the 71st point for Franklin County.
Port St. Joe eighth grader Zay Jenkins led all scorers with 21 points, including five three-pointers.
Bailey said that with the Seahawks having likely locked up the number one seed in the district, he wants to give the reserves as much “meaningful time” as he can in the team’s closing regular season games.
“I want to win districts, and I want to get both games at Franklin,” he said.
Star sportswriter Ken Paulk contributed to this story.