By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Lady Braves dominated East Gadsden on the interior as Krista McQueen scored 29 points and teammate Deja Tucker added 28 of her own as the host squad posted an 82-73 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A girls basketball playoffs on Feb. 6.
Junior guard Haley Paulk provided a couple of shots from behind the arc early while McQueen went to work on the interior as the home team took a 19-14 lead after one quarter of play.
Deja Tucker got going in the second quarter as she scored eight of her 10 first half points in that frame while McQueen added another eight points to help the Braves to a 44-30 halftime advantage.
East Gadsden got their offense going in the second half as the Jaguars decided to attack from behind the three-point line. Sharieka Gaymon, a junior, kept the visiting team in the game by making seven shots from behind the arc while teammate De’Ambernique Davis canned a pair of long bombs of her own to help the squad close within seven points.
Walton responded with a key three-pointer from Paulk, who turned in a spectacular game on defense with several key steals, while Tucker and McQueen continued to pound the paint for baskets and an eventual 82-73 decision.
Walton connected on 30-of-62 shots from the floor as the Braves turned in their best offensive night of the season while also making 16-of-23 shots from the charity stripe. Walton did commit 17 of their 23 turnovers in the second half but the Braves scored at will on the interior to make up for their mistakes.
East Gadsden hit 27-of-76 shots form the field and 9-of-16 from the free throw line but struggled to slow down the Braves offensive attack in front of a partisan home crowd. Gaymon led the Jaguars with 29 points while Dondrea Harris had 23 and Davis 12.
Caretha Paul worked to control the ball for most of the night for the Braves and got help from Paulk and Ashley Brooks as the three guards combined to score 20 points in the game. Forward Kayla Jackson added five points and had several key rebounds in an up-tempo contest that kept fans holding their collective breath until the final minute of the competition.
Walton moved to 18-9 with the victory and will face District 2 champion Tallahassee Godby on Feb. 11 in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. Details of that game were not available at press time but will appear in next week’s issue.
Team Notes: Walton girls basketball coach Jerry Hester is in his fourth and final season with the club and holds a mark of 69-34 in that time. The Walton girls are 19-18 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 10 of their last 11 games. Walton is 37-12 at home with Hester as the head coach. The 82 points the Braves scored against East Gadsden ties for the most the girls basketball team has ever scored in the state playoffs. Walton posted an 82-64 win at home over Chipley in the first round of the playoffs during the 2008-09 season. The Lady Braves are just 3-10 in their last 13 playoff games. The 73 points allowed to East Gadsden in a playoff game is the most points the Braves have given up while posting a victory in the state playoffs. The Braves are just 5-13 when allowing 57 or more points in a playoff contest. Juniors Deja Tucker(988) and Krista McQueen(972) are both closing in on the 1,000 career points scored mark.
By PATRICK CASEY