By REID TUCKER
The South Walton boys’ basketball team got their season off to a good start with a convincing 80-64 victory over the Wewahitchka Gators.
The Monday, Nov. 22, matchup saw the Seahawks outpoint Wewahitchka in all but the second quarter. Though the score was separated by just one point in the Gators’ favor at halftime, South Walton pulled ahead to lead by no less than 27 points after the fourth quarter to take the win.
South Walton’s top scorers in the game were Tanner DeGafferelly, with 31 points, Jerrard Tookes, with 19, and Shafer Martin, who had 11. Theryl Brown did most of the Gators’ heavy lifting, putting up 23 points, while Jamarree Hunter and Raheem Wright scored 14 and 12 points respectively. DeGafferelly was also the Seahawks’ ace three-pointer in the game, netting six of his 13 baskets from behind the line.
Both teams came out hungry in the first quarter with DeGafferelly lighting up the scoreboard with a three and four twos. He was backed up by a pair of two-pointers from Bish Waldrop and Chadd Bryant. Hunter and Wright each scored six field goals and Hunter got a free throw as well, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Gators from trailing South Walton 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Wewahitchka made up the difference in the next period, outpointing the home team by four points. Tookes racked up the majority of his points in the second quarter with four two-pointers to his credit, supplemented by a brace of threes from DeGafferelly and Victor Vaggalis, though this was overshadowed by the 11 points scored for the Gators by Brown. When the buzzer sounded on the half, South Walton trailed Wewahitchka 35-34.
The Seahawks emerged from the locker room a seemingly new team, holding the Gators to just nine points while simultaneously putting up 23 of their own, a 14-point deficit from which Wewahitchka would never recover. The majority of the Seahawks’ points came again courtesy of DeGafferelly, who got three three-pointers and a two, but he was backed up by solid play from Martin, who brought in three two-pointers of his own plus a good shot from the charity stripe.
Wewahitchka scored an impressive 20 points in the fourth quarter, but South Walton beat them out by three. DeGafferelly got two more threes and a two-pointer while Tyler Abbot also got on the board with his own three-pointer. Brown scored eight points for the Gators though he went one-for-three from the free throw line.
The biggest moment of the game came when Tookes made a (literally) last-second shot to swish a shot from a step beyond half-court. Tookes later said he took the shot because his “conscience wouldn’t let [him] not take it.” The crowd erupted as the buzzer sounded and South Walton rolled on the season opener with a dominant 80-64 win.
South Walton coach John Davies was pleased with the win, though he predicted the team will improve even further when injured senior Shane Seeger rejoins the team in January. Davies said his team put in a good effort but qualified that by saying the first half was proof the boys are not invincible.
“The first half really showed it was the first game of the season,” Davies said. “We were a little flat to begin with. We didn’t have the fire we usually have but we corrected that problem in the second half.”