It was a battle to the end, but the Walton County Braves of the north finished on top 64-60 over the South Walton Seahawks in varsity boys basketball action Tuesday night in Santa Rosa Beach.
"It's the little things that win ball games like this," said South Walton Coach John Davies. "We both played pretty good D, we both played pretty good offense. We both hit some shots and we both got some rebounds.
"It's that made layup versus a missed layup or a made free throw versus a missed free throw … that adds up. It's that margin in games like this."
South Walton made 20 of 33 shots from the free-throw line while Walton hit one of three tries.
The Seahawks came out strong taking an early 15-7 lead in the first six minutes. South Walton's Wyatt Kemper was fouled and hit both tries from the line, and John Woolf dumped off a shot inside the paint for a 4-0 start. Walton's Nitro Gee put the Braves on the board with a layup. The scoring went back and forth with Woolf and Vinnie Ciurleo scoring for the Hawks and Gee and Quentine Stuckey scoring for the Braves. South Walton's Woolf popped a 3-pointer and Paxton Dixon knocked down two free throws followed by an inside shot for the last lead the Hawks would have.
In the last two minutes of the first quarter, the Braves went on the warpath and put up 14-unanswered points to take a 21-15 lead.
In the second quarter, the Hawks kept pace with the Braves and closed the gap to within one point late in the period on a put-back basket and a free throw from Kemper. Walton finished up the first half with baskets from Raheem Phillips, Gee and Alex Campbell and a 37-30 advantage.
South Walton started the third with a 3-pointer from Ross Martin to cut it to 37-33. But again the Braves came back with a couple of layups and a 3-pointer to go up by 11 points. The Hawks' Casey Palmer hit a basket and then dished off to Stephen Stroop for a bucket. The scoring went back and forth with the Braves leading 52-43 at the buzzer.
In the fourth, the Hawks came swooping in with nine unanswered points to close it down to a four-point game. Paxton Dixon hit a free throw and then a layup. Palmer was fouled and hit both shots, then Martin took it inside for two points and also knocked down two free throws. Walton scored on an inside basket from Gee, then Kemper took it to the hoop and cashed in for a three-point play, closing it down to a three-point game with 1:33 left to play.
Walton scored one last basket and South Walton's Woolf hit the first of two free throws for a 64-60 finish.
"They played great," Davies said of his team. "They came to play. We came to play. But credit to them. They got us tonight. We'll get them on down the road."
Top scorer for the Hawks was Woolf with 14 points, followed by Kemper with 13. Dixon hit for nine points and Palmer eight.
Hitting double digits for the Braves was Gee with 21 points and Phillips scored 10. Josh McNeil and Rodney Shipman each scored seven.
Up next for the Hawks is a 7 p.m. game Tuesday at home against West Gadsden. The Braves will travel for a 7 p.m. game Tuesday on Panama City Beach against Arnold.