By PATRICK CASEY
Senior center Savannah Slade scored 24 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter and the Baker Gators could connect on only 16-of-67 shots from the floor as South Walton wrapped up the #1-seed in the District 3, Class A tournament with a 60-49 home decision over the Okaloosa County squad.
South Walton had turnover issues in the first quarter as the Lady Seahawks gave the ball away seven times in the first eight minutes with Baker unable to take advantage of the extra possessions as the squad hit only 3-of-17 shots from the field to trail 11-9 at the end of the quarter.
South Walton got their offense going in the second period as Hayley Seible canned a pair of shots from behind the three-point line with Allee Coble chipping in a pair of shots from the interior while Slade added six of her 14 first half points during that time. The host squad went on a 19-9 scoring run to hold a 30-18 lead at the half.
Slade added nine points in the third quarter with Devany Beard adding a pair of shots from inside to pad the lead to 47-33 after 24 minutes of the contest.
Baker got a rally going in the fourth quarter by getting three-point shots from three different players but the deficit was too large as the Seahawks earned their second win of the year against the Gators, moving to 8-0 in the district and 13-6 overall.
Eight different players contributed points in the win for South Walton as the squad finished 21-of-39 from the field and 15-of-31 from the free throw line. The Seahawks did have 21 turnovers to just 11 for Baker, but the Gators’ shooting woes (the squad was 5-of-32 from the field in the first half) kept them from taking advantage.
Tiare Payne led Baker with 16 points but no other player reached double figures in the contest. The Gators(14-3) lost to South Walton for the second time after dropping a 62-49 home decision to the Walton County club in early December.
Head Coach Kevin Craig picked up his 750th career victory with the win over Baker, moving to 750-287 in 35 years as a girls varsity basketball coach while holding a 241-114 mark in his 13th year at the helm of the Lady Seahawks program.
The Seahawks have home games with Chipley and Northview this week to close out the district slate.
Team Notes: South Walton and Baker will be heavy favorites to face off in the District 3 title game in a couple of weeks and could face each other four times if both are able to knock off their foes from District 4 in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. South Walton has not finished a season with a losing record since the 2006-07 season.
By PATRICK CASEY