By PATRICK CASEY
The South Walton Seahawks used a smothering defense to force 31 turnovers from The Villages as they won their Class A state semi-final match-up 54-30 on Tuesday morning.
Senior guard Eve Heffron had 11 points to lead the Walton County team to their first title game in girls basketball in school history.
As in the Ponce de Leon game, the Seahawks got off to a slow start as they trailed the Buffalo 11-10 after one quarter of play. The deficit did not last long as South Walton went on a 9-0 scoring run over the first four minutes of the second quarter to pull out to a 19-11 advantage. A lone basket by the Buffalo in the final seconds cut the halftime deficit to 26-14 as South Walton appeared to have the game in control at the half.
The Villages began the second half with a 6-0 run to trim the lead to 26-20 but that was as close as they would get as Casey Perot and Kati Trejo once again took over the paint, helping the Seahawks close out the quarter with a 14-5 scoring advantage that had them ahead 40-25 after three quarters of play.
The Villages saw their hopes of a comeback cut short when leading scorer Asia Marion picked up her fifth foul with eight seconds left in the third quarter, her career at the school coming to an end with just 12 points scored. The Buffalo offense collapsed without Marion’s presence as South Walton closed the game with a 14-5 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter for the win.
Neither team hit a shot from behind the three-point line in the contest with the Seahawks holding a 35-30 advantage in the rebounding.
Trejo and Perot each had nine points with Tayler Menard and Morgan Kennedy scoring seven points each. Mackenzie Perot had six points as the Seahawks once again lived at the free throw line, hitting 22-of-37 shots from the charity stripe.
South Walton (24-6) will play Chipley (23-4) in the title game on Wednesday afternoon at 3:35 p.m. in Lakeland. The Tigers defeated the Seahawks in their lone meeting between the two schools this year during Walton’s Thanksgiving Tournament in November by a score of 47-38.