Junior Ajaylen McNair [ Jadyn Luberto | Contributed ]
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Pair of year end wins buoy Hawk hopes

A pair of two-point home court wins last week against quality Class 1A opponents has buoyed the hopes of the Seahawk varsity boys basketball team, as they closed out 2023 with a 7-6 record.

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Ray Bailey’s squad trailed throughout the first half against the Cottondale Hornets, falling behind 16-11 after the first quarter and 25-22 at the half.

But a strong 13-6 third quarter put Franklin County up 35-31 going into the final stanza.

With seconds left on the clock, senior Lonnie O’Neal battled for the offensive rebound and after a narrowly missed shot, a teammate scored to give the Seahawks a 45-43 lead that would hold up as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

“Lonnie’s playing with more confidence and more physical, and more focused,” Bailey said.

Seahawk #12 senior Lonnie O’Neal goes up to block a shot against Leon. [ Jadyn Luberto | Contributed ]

Three nights later, the Seahawks would again prevail by a bucket, as they downed the Bozeman Bucks 50-48 at the Nest.

“It’s always good to get a win, to win period,” said Bailey. “But winning a close game in our class, that’s a (possible future) playoff game, by a young and inexperienced team, those were two great wins for us.”

Against Bozeman, a team with a 10-2 record, Franklin County wore down their opponents with a full court press.

“We pressed them and we took their big man away,” said Bailey. “We wouldn’t let them throw it to him and that hindered their offense.

“I was proud of the effort,” he said. “It was a full team effort.”

Freshman Sadiq Jones led the team with 15 points, with senior Ethan Kembro scoring 12, O’Neal nine, and freshman Jeremiah Allen seven. Sophomore Ja’michael Miller and eighth grader Dre North each scored three, and junior Ajaylen McNair one.

Freshman Jeremiah Allen [ Jadyn Luberto | Contributed ]

Sandwiched in between the two wins was a 69-57 loss on Dec. 21 at North Bay Haven against the Headland (Alabama) Rams.

“We didn’t play well at all,” said Bailey. “I thought we were better than them but we didn’t come out and play like that.

“We had two players, our two leading scorers, they wasn’t in their right mind to play basketball,” he said.

With a blistering schedule of nine games in 13 days, Bailey was more than willing to give his squad a much-needed end of the year rest.

“They need a break, they’re exhausted,” he said. “I’m going to let them enjoy their Christmas break.”

The Seahawks will be back on their home court Wednesday, Jan. 3, as they take on the formidable Class 6A Lincoln Trojans.

“I think we’ll be better in 2024,” said Bailey. “We’ll have more days to practice in between games and work on some of those things we’ve been struggling with.

“I think we can make another run at it,” he said.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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