By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Braves girls and boys basketball teams each hosted a four-team event on Nov. 25-26 with the two squads earning second place finishes.
The Lady Braves defeated Panama City Rutherford on the first day of the tournament 75-56 behind 31 points from junior center Krista McQueen and 23 points from forward Deja Tucker.
Walton dominated in the paint as the club hit 28-of-55 shots in the contest from the floor as they pulled away in the fourth quarter for the victory.
The Braves faced off with Holmes County in the tournament final after the Bonifay-based team won the opening game on Monday with a 67-42 victory over P.C. Mosley.
Walton’s only loss of the season came in Bonifay in the season opener as the Braves looked for revenge on their home floor. The host squad got off to a solid start as they built a 24-15 lead after one quarter of play as guard Caretha Paul canned three shots from behind the arc to help the Braves to a quick start out of the gate.
The Bluedevils increased their pressure on the Braves’ ball-handlers in the second quarter and mounted a rally as they forced 14 turnovers in the first half while making five shots from behind the arc of their own to tie the game at 32-all at the half.
Holmes County continued their assault in the third quarter as they made five more shots from behind the arc as they pulled away for a 59-47 lead after 24 minutes of play.
Walton closed the gap to 63-58 in the final two minutes of the game as McQueen scored six of her 18 points in the contest during that frame but the Braves were unable to commit enough fouls to force the visiting team to the free throw line and virtually surrendered the game with that strategy.
The Bluedevils (6-1) finished the game with 10 made three-point shots while forcing 23 turnovers from the Braves, who fell to 5-2 on the year.
Walton’s boys won their first game of the regular season with an 85-56 decision over Gulf Shores in the nightcap on Monday. In all, 13 of the 15 members of the varsity squad scored at least two points as the Braves raced to a 46-28 lead at halftime in an up-tempo contest.
Steven Harper led the Braves with 15 points as he was the only player in double figures for the home team as the Walton County squad hit 31-of-66 shots from the field and 13-of-18 free throws to win the game.
Walton faced off against Crestview on Tuesday night for the title with the Braves trailing 19-18 after one quarter of play. The Bulldogs increased the lead to 32-28 at halftime but lost their top player, Ronnie Baylark, to a foot injury as he finished the half with 12 points and did not return to the game for the second half.
Teammate Jerry Aaron took up the slack in the second half as he scored 12 of his 17 points after intermission as the Bulldogs held a 48-40 lead after three quarters on their way to an eventual 71-55 decision.
The Braves were ice-cold from the floor for most of the night as they hit only 18-of-63 shots from the floor while committing 26 turnovers against an athletic Bulldogs squad. Jamie Stanley scored 11 points while Alex Campbell had 10 on a night when the Braves could not put the ball through the hoop. The host squad hit only 10-of-23 foul shots to complicate matters as they fell to 1-1 on the year.
South Walton’s boys basketball team played two solid games against Crestview and Gulf Shores but could not pull out a win in either contest.
The Seahawks fell on the opening day of the tourney to Crestview as the Bulldogs rallied from a 40-34 halftime deficit to take an 80-76 victory.
Baylark scored 22 points to lead the Okaloosa County squad while Rusty Moorer added 12. The Bulldogs hit 30-of-65 shots from the field but were keyed by forcing 14 second half turnovers from coach John Davies squad.
Ross Martin led the Seahawks with 18 points as he connected on 10-of-13 shots from the charity stripe while Paxton Dixon added 17 points. John Woolf had 14 points and Vinnie Ciurleo added 13 in a game that was hard to believe that the Seahawks did not win when it was over. South Walton hit 26-of-33 free throws on the night but committed just enough turnovers to allow Crestview to eke out a victory.
The Seahawks were edged by Gulf Shores in the consolation game on Tuesday 91-87 in a fast-paced game.
Gulf Shores came out on fire and shot well for most of the night as they hit 13 shots from behind the arc in the contest to zip out to a 27-16 first quarter lead.
The Seahawks trimmed the deficit to 53-47 at halftime but could never catch up with the Dolphins as they put five players in double figures, led by Joan Pouparina’s 18 points.
Paxton Dixon had the hot hand for South Walton as he scored 27 points with Vinnie Ciurelo adding 23. Ross Martin scored 13 points as the Seahawks had another good night at the free throw line as they made 28-of-38 from the charity stripe.
The Walton County club hit only 25-of-70 shots from the field compared to 35-of-75 for the Alabama squad as the Seahawks fell to 2-3 on the year.
By PATRICK CASEY