By REID TUCKER
South Walton’s boys basketball team got its district season off to a good start, outgunning and outlasting Bozeman to take a 63-47 win at home.
The secret to the Seahawks’ success on Dec. 3 was easy to figure out: they generally shot better than did the visiting Bucks and drew more fouls late in the game. South Walton extended a first-quarter 19-14 lead to a 39-22 advantage at halftime thanks to an 8-for-14 field goal shooting performance to outscore Bozeman 20-8 in the period. The Seahawks retained the lead through the third and fourth quarters despite a drop-off in shooting from the floor and mounting ball security issues, allowing the Bucks to close within eight points.
Bozeman had a greater volume of fire in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-15 in the period to South Walton’s three makes, but the Bucks gave South Walton all the opportunities it needed to win the game in the form of trips to the foul line. For example, Vinnie Ciurleo, the Seahawks’ high-scorer on the night, earned seven of his 20 total points at the stripe in the fourth quarter alone. Ciurleo added a 3-pointer to account for fully 12 of his team’s 15 points in the period, though the Seahawks only just edged Bozeman by a point in the final eight minutes of play.
South Walton had about as good a first half as can be had, scoring 19 points and 20 points, respectively, all but shutting down the offense of Bozeman. Both teams turned over the ball 10 times apiece in the first two quarters due to similar run-and-gun strategies. The Seahawks’ Paxton Dixon scored nine of 17 total points via a quick succession of shots from the perimeter in the first quarter and team mate Stephen Stroop was golden under the basket for six points, paving the way for Ciurleo to take over starting in Q2.
The Seahawks’ victory over Bozeman put them at the break-even point early in the season with three wins and three losses, but they got in the black after a narrow 68-61 win over Franklin County later in the week. South Walton, now 4-3 overall, is on a 2-0 streak in District 4 Class A play.
By REID TUCKER