’Twas a rough night for hoop dreams on the Emerald Coast.
All after long bus rides, all in enemy territory, Choctaw, Fort Walton Beach and Paxton each fell to their opponents Thursday in the opening rounds of the FHSAA regional playoffs.
On the heels of a nine-point loss to Pine Forest in the District 1-5A championship game, coach Don Brown and the No. 5 Indians (18-7 overall) fell to Rickards 68-55 in Tallahassee despite three players posting double-digit scoring figures. Kyla Abraham led the way with 16 points, Keyosha Warren had 12 and Narissa Clay had 10, while Anissa Lutton and Alexis Becker had nine each.
No. 4 Rickards (12-12) entered the postseason with a losing record, including two losses to Choctaw, both by at least 14 points.
Eyeing their first trip back to Lakeland since 2017, coach Holly McDaniel and No. 6 Fort Walton Beach (19-8) made the long drive to No. 3 St. Augustine (19-5) where it fell 30-27. It was the Vikings lowest scoring output in a game since posting just 18 points in a loss to Booker T. Washington in January 2019.
Holding opponents to just 33 points per game this season, the Yellow Jackets were coming off a 44-37 victory against Ponte Verde in the District 4-5A championship game.
And perhaps with the worst luck of the three, coach Andrew Norris and Paxton (22-4) drew Holmes County (22-4) in the Region 1-1A semifinals and fell 68-61 in double overtime in Bonifay.
Holmes County, of course, bounced Paxton from the postseason a year ago in the Elite Eight en route to a 1A state championship game appearance.
Up next, the Blue Devils will host Ponce De Leon (21-3) at 7 p.m. Tuesday; Rickards will travel to play Middleburg (19-6) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Middleburg and Pine Forest (18-4) will host St. Augustine at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Pensacola.