By REID TUCKER
The Walton Lady Braves narrowly overcame a visiting Freeport squad after a tumultuous game that saw the final score settled by a mere three-point margin.
The Lady Dogs came against Walton with something to prove, eager as they were to make up for a devastating 58-17 loss to South Walton earlier in the week. Freeport stayed within striking distance of the Lady Braves throughout the game, played Thursday, Jan. 27, and was just two free throws shy of the lead with half a minute to go in regulation. However, Jessica Moulton, who was at that time four-for-five from behind the line, missed both shots, allowing the Lady Braves to score enough points to finish the game 53-50.
Walton did made a fair show of spreading its score around, as Gillian Infinger lead the way with 16 points, followed by Lynn Paulk and Taliah Moore, who each scored 12. Freeport depended heavily on Moulton and leading scorer Dannica Mosher, who put up 14 and 19 points respectively. The Lady Dogs not only shot more free throws than did Walton, making 26 attempts from the charity stripe, but was more accurate as well, as the Braves made only 47 percent of theirs compared to Freeport’s 65 percent.
Moulton lead the way for Freeport in the first quarter, draining a brace of 3s and going two-for-two in free throws, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Lady Dogs from falling behind by five at the end of the period. Te’Ondria Guice scored six of her seven points for the Braves in the first quarter (she would fall silent again until making a crucial free throw in the closing moments of the game). Moore and Sierra Contreras scored four points each and Infinger tallied the first of her four 3s for the evening.
Mosher alone kept Freeport alive in the second quarter by scoring 10 points, four from 2-pointers and subsequent and-ones. Walton similarly hit a dry spot and was actually outscored by one point in the period, though another 3 from Infinger with 1:49 to go before the half and a pass to Moore under the basket from Paulk kept Walton in the lead at 26-22.
The Lady Dogs edged closer to Walton after the start of the second half and eventually took the lead with 3:42 to go in the third quarter. Just a few minutes later, Mosher was given a crack at four free-throws when Walton head coach Jerry Hester was removed from the game over a dispute with the referees. Now down to Freeport, Paulk made a free-throw and a layup, which was followed by a 2 from Contreras and a 3 from Infinger in the closing seconds of the quarter to give Walton a two-point lead.
Though Paulk opened up with a 3-point basket and several 2-pointers, Freeport quickly clawed its way back to within three points of the advancing Lady Braves. The late game became largely a battle of attrition: first side to draw the most fouls and make the most shots from the free-throw line wins. Mosher took to the stripe on four occasions and scored three points in the quarter to put the Lady Dogs ahead by two at 52-50, but the lead was short-lived as Infinger added a field goal to a pair of good free-throws by Guice.
The late-game push proved enough for Walton to squeak by with the 53-50 win, which technically made them favored to against South Walton the coming night. However, Hester’s ejection from the game means that not only will Walton High School face indeterminate fines, he will also face a seven-day suspension. Whether or not Hester will be able to coach the team in this week’s upcoming district playoff games remains to be seen.