By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Lady Braves ran the table once again in District 1 of Class 4A as they defeated West Florida 67-32 to earn their third consecutive district title in girls basketball.
Junior center Krista McQueen dominated against an athletic Jaguars team that could not stop Walton in the second half. The Braves went on a 37-13 run after intermission as McQueen and forward Deja Tucker combined to score 32 points, mainly in the paint, over the final 16 minutes of play.
West Florida adopted an aggressive defensive posture in the first half that resulted in a ton of fouls on both teams and a barrage of free throw attempts. Walton got the better end of the deal overall, hitting 29-of-49 shots from the charity stripe to earn their third win of the year over the Escambia County club.
McQueen finished the night with 31 points while Tucker added 19.
Walton got to the title game after earning a 55-37 victory over Pensacola Catholic in the semi-final round in a game that saw the Braves get 23 from McQueen and 16 from Tucker. Walton posted a combined 8-0 mark against their three district foes in 2013-14 and has not lost a district game the last three years.
Walton will host East Gadsden on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Walton High School gymnasium. The Jaguars fell to Tallahassee Godby on Saturday night in the District 2 title game by a score of 50-45, forcing them to make the trip to DeFuniak Springs on Thursday.
East Gadsden has three seniors on the roster and like to push the tempo. Sophomore Dondrea Harris had a big game in the squad’s semi-final win over Florida High on Friday night and their speed will test a Braves squad that has struggled against quick opponents.
If Walton is able to defeat East Gadsden they will likely face Tallahassee Godby in the second round in a game the Braves would host on Feb. 11. Walton has faced Godby in the playoffs the last two seasons, winning last year 67-49 after losing at home at the end of the 2011-12 season by a score of 68-41.
Team Notes: Walton girls basketball coach Jerry Hester is in his fourth and final season with the club and holds a mark of 68-34 in that time. The Walton girls are 18-18 in the playoffs in school history. Walton is shooting 69 percent from the free throw line, one of the best (if not the best) free throw shooting teams in girls basketball history at the school. The Braves have won nine of their last ten games. Walton is 36-12 at home with Hester as the head coach.
By PATRICK CASEY