By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Lady Braves left no doubt that they were the best team in District 1 of Class 4A as they jumped out to a 20-4 lead after one quarter of play over host Pensacola Catholic on the way to a 54-30 victory that earned the visiting team their second district title in the last four years.
Walton was sharp from the opening tip as seniors Gillian Infinger and Allyson Howell hit 3-point shots in the opening minutes of the game to help the Braves to an 8-2 lead followed by shots from behind the arc by Taliah Moore and Caretha Paul for a 17-2 lead that the Crusaders would never recover from.
Pensacola Catholic struggled with turnovers as the Lady Braves provided back-court pressure to force 26 turnovers on the night. Walton led 29-11 at the half and 43-18 after three quarters of play.
Walton took care of the basketball as they ran a patient offense that was able to hit open shots and build an early lead in a facility that has often been a struggle to come out of with a victory, regardless of the sport.
Taliah Moore had 16 points in the contest with Deja Tucker adding 14 of her own while battling inside for points off of several offensive rebounds.
The Crusaders(4-21) got to the championship round after shocking Marianna 39-37 on Friday night in the semi-finals after the Bulldogs had won both regular season contests against Pensacola Catholic.
Walton’s crowd got into the game early as the Braves fans out-numbered the home team’s fans by a sizable margin as Jerry Hester earned his first district title as the Lady Braves head coach.
Walton (16-8) will face the runner-up from District 2, Tallahassee Godby, on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Team Notes: The Walton Lady Braves claimed their 11th district title in school history (they won their first after the 1979-80 season) and earned their 17th trip to the state playoffs. Walton is 17-16 in state playoff games and will be hosting only their second playoff game since 1996. Walton defeated Chipley 82-64 on February 12, 2009, in the team’s last home playoff game behind Lee Paulk’s 21 points. This will be the first playoff game in Walton’s new gymnasium. Walton finished as state runner-up in 1982 and 1996 and lost in overtime to Belle Glade in a state semi-final in 1993 in what may have been the best girls basketball team in the school’s history.
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