By REID TUCKER
The Walton Braves continued working their way back from an early-season slump with a solid 67-57 win over Arnold High.
The Braves (2-4) came out strong on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 6, posting a 19-9 advantage over the visiting Marlins (2-3) by the end of the first quarter. However, the slick shooting of Deshun Tucker, Trey Williams, Chris Shider and others turned flat in the second quarter when Walton scored just two points. Arnold took the advantage by making up the difference and then some to take the lead at 24-22 by the end of the first half.
Walton Coach Brad West said the team’s previous three losses weighed his players heavily, especially considering that the Braves gave away leads in all three games to lose by no more than five points. Things began to turn around for Walton with a 75-55 win against Samson on Nov. 28, but their luck shifted again when the team lost 49-43 to Crestview on Monday, so when Tucker and Williams began making buckets at whim in the first quarter against Arnold only to turn cold in the second, West said it looked like the Braves were in for more of the same.
However, Walton turned the heat back up in the final two periods to outgun the Marlins by five points in the third quarter and by 28-21 in the fourth to ultimately take the win.
Though West said mistakes were made and consistency and concentration could have been better, just getting the win was enough.
“We won one and we probably didn’t play as well tonight as we did in our four losses,” he said. “I think what was happening with our concentration tonight was that we played our butts off and still got beat anyway (in other games). We got really up for those games and then couldn’t pull it together at the end. What’s important, though, is that we won tonight. That’s all that matters.”
Walton and Arnold traded blows throughout the second half but the Braves began to get the better of the Marlins when Chris Murphy and Tucker both knocked back 3-pointers at the onset of the fourth quarter to make it a 45-38 in Walton’s favor. Ken Randolf got off his first of three good shots from the free-throw line for six attempts, but he also scored two field goals. Angus Anderson scored his first four points since the first quarter on a 2 and the ensuing two shots from the stripe after being fouled, while Shider scored on a single 3-pointer after falling silent from the arch since the introductory period.
The Marlins didn’t sit still in the fourth quarter, as Davison went on a spree, scoring 15 of Arnold’s 21 points in the final eight minutes of regulation play. Though he shot 50 percent from the stripe in the fourth he was 5-8 on the night and he also scored six times from the floor: five 2-pointers and a 3 late in the game to give the Marlins their high-water mark of the evening at 65-57.
However, it was Walton’s Tucker and Williams who made the biggest impact in the fourth quarter, though, with nine points between them in the period, they made their mark not through scoring volume but by keeping the Marlins’ offense on its toes. Tucker knocked out a 3-pointer close to the start of the period and also scored a brace of 2-pointers via some high-flying layups, plus one basket from the charity stripe and Williams scored just one point, going 1-2 at the free-throw line. Williams in particular gave Arnold trouble with successive rebounds to stave off a late-game comeback from the Marlins.
West had a lot of praise for Williams, who for the first time in his high school career is playing point guard for the Braves, in spite of some inconsistencies in the scoring department. Nevertheless, West said Williams will continue to be a critical part of Walton’s efforts in the rest of the season.
“When he struggled tonight, we struggled,” West said. “He played really well early on and he played well late so the whole team followed suit.”