FORT WALTON BEACH – Crestview High School's boys basketball team can still wrap up the District 1-7A regular-season title, but the Bulldogs have a little work to do before claiming the top seed in the district. Crestview would win the regular-season crown with a win over Navarre in Friday night's district game and win against Niceville next Friday.


FORT WALTON BEACH – Crestview High School's boys basketball team can still wrap up the District 1-7A regular-season title, but the Bulldogs have a little work to do before claiming the top seed in the district.



Crestview would win the regular-season crown with a win over Navarre in Friday night's district game and win against Niceville next Friday.



The road to the district crown got a little tougher after Crestview 51-48 loss to Fort Walton Beach on Tuesday.



Fort Walton Beachboys basketball coach John Lavin knew his Vikings would have to turn in their best performance of the season to hand the visiting Bulldogs their first district loss.



They did just that.



Chris Bowden erupted for eight fourth-quarter points and the Vikings outscored Crestview 20-13 in the final period, earning a come-from-behind 51-48 win and knocking the Bulldogs from the ranks of the unbeaten in district play. With the win, Fort Walton Beach improved to 5-2 in 1-7A, and moved into solid position to earn the No. 2 seed in the season-ending district tournament.



“That was just a physical, tough basketball game,” Lavin said after his team improved to 12-6 on the season. “When you talk about playing a team as good as Crestview, you have to bring your best. And I thought (Tuesday) was probably our best game of the year.”



It was also a game that was never a runaway for either team. The two teams traded leads for much of the night, with the biggest advantage for either side a five-point lead for FWB early in the first quarter. The Vikings led 23-22 at the half, and Crestview led 35-31 entering the final period.



In that final quarter, Bowden, who hadn’t scored in the first three quarters, came to life. The senior guard hit a three-pointer less than a minute into the fourth to cut Crestview’s lead to 36-35, and later he added another to give Fort Walton Beach a 43-40 lead with three minutes, 10 seconds remaining. It was a lead the Vikings would never relinquish.



“Chris is a senior, and I know he has this kind of performance in him,” Lavin said. “Our whole team bought in tonight and every single player contributed.”



Trailing by three points entering the game’s final minute, Crestview cut FWB’s advantage to one point on a putback by Denzel Ware with 22 seconds left. After a free throw by FWB’s Trace Ryan, the Bulldogs had a shot to tie the game with 10 seconds left, but Tay King’s jumper came up short.



On the night, senior guard Ronnie Baylark paced Crestview (14-4, 5-1) with 24 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Ware added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs.



On the other side, Israel Black led Fort Walton Beach with 14 points and Ryan added 12.