By PATRICK CASEY
The Ponce de Leon girls basketball team played suffocating defense last week in winning back-to-back games over Graceville and South Walton to enter the holidays with a perfect mark at 12-0.
Against Graceville, PDL held the Tigers to 8-of-45 shooting from the floor to capture the district contest by a 47-22 count. Pirates center Jasmine Flock scored 11 points with junior Ashley Harper contributing 10 points, mostly on shots from the perimeter.
The Pirates held a 26-13 lead at the half as the Tigers struggled with 13 turnovers in the first 16 minutes of play while hitting only 4-of-25 shots from the field.
The home team dominated defensively while getting scoring from nine different players. In contrast, the Tigers had only six players draw iron, none with more than five points as Tiara Sorey was the only Graceville player to hit that mark.
The win pushed the Pirates to 6-0 in the district and gives the Holmes County squad a comfortable lead over their district foes heading into the second half of the season. Graceville fell to 7-5 overall and 5-2 in district competition.
The Pirates faced off with South Walton on Friday night in the second meeting of the year between the two schools after PDL won in South Walton 50-36 during the first week of the regular season in November.
Once again the Pirates employed tenacious defense in jumping out to a 24-12 halftime lead as the Seahawks could connect on only 5-of-21 shots from the field in the opening half of play while giving away 14 turnovers.
Ashley Harper scored 12 points to lead the home team as the Pirates again saw nine different players contribute to the scoring.
South Walton trimmed the lead slightly in the third quarter as both teams struggled with poor shooting and turnovers during that period but the Pirates got back on track in the final quarter, hitting 6-of-12 shots from the floor to pull away for a 46-24 victory to sweep the season series.
South Walton, whose 9-2 record has suffered both losses at the hands of the Pirates, got six points from Mackenzie Watson in what coach Kevin Craig called a very sluggish performance. “Our district is rather weak this season and some of the wins we have rolled to in District 4 have not helped us to face the caliber of team that Ponce de Leon has. They are very physical and Tim (Alford) has them really playing well. We hope to see them again in the postseason.”
Pirates coach Tim Alford was pleased to hit the break at 12-0, but cautioned, “We still have a lot of work to do. We are a little ahead of where I thought we would be with some of the injuries we have had, but I like the way we are progressing. A lot of challenges are ahead of us, though.”
Team Notes: PDL leads the series 3-2 dating back to the 2000-01 season with Graceville, though the Tigers captured both match-ups last season. The Pirates hold a 9-1 advantage in the series with South Walton. The Pirates will next play in the Freeport Christmas Blowout as they will open the girls tournament with Oliver Springs at 4 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Freeport Middle School. The South Walton girls team is the only Area 5 squad not playing in Freeport as the Seahawks will take part in the 2011 Go Southern Beach Blowout in Fort Walton Beach. The Walton County squad will face Choctaw on Dec. 28 at 9 a.m. in the opening round of that event. Tim Alford is in his 17th season as the Pirates head coach and is believed to hold a 362-136 record at the school. Kevin Craig is in his 8th season with the Seahawks and holds a 135-67 mark in that time.