FREEPORT— The War of Highway 4 resumed Tuesday night on the road as the Baker and Jay squared off in the opening game of the District 2-1A girls basketball tournament at Freeport.
Powered by a strong first-half performance the Gators rolled to a 54-44 win to advance to the tournament semifinal game against Chipley on Thursday.
"We did some things well in spurts tonight," Gator coach Brian Wagner said. We did not do some things as well as I would like to for the full game. It's going to take a full game against a team like Chipley.
"When we pressure the ball well it allows us to get more into the flow of the game and our offense run a little easier. The times we have had lulls in games have been when maybe we were not applying pressure. When you get a steal with an opportunity to score you have a little more incentive than you do otherwise."
The teams traded baskets the first three-and-a-half minutes of the first quarter and Carissa Munford lead the Royal charge with six quick points and Cassidy Anderson had a hot hand for the Gators as the teams were tied at 8-8.
An Anderson scored put Baker (16-6) up 10-8 and sparked a 14-5 Gator run to close out the first half.
Baker led 22-13 at the end of the first quarter and quickly stretched the lead to double digits as Bethany Chestnut got the hot hand in second period for the Gators as they pushed the lead to 35-18 at the break.
The Royals tried to fight back in the third quarter as sloppy play by the Gators allowed Jay to keep at least a glimmer of hope as it cut the Baker lead to 41-28 at the end of third quarter.
Whatever hope the Royals might have had faded quickly at the hands of Sarah Hudson who nine of her 17 points in the first three minutes and 10 seconds of the fourth quarter.
A Hudson 3-pointer with 4:50 left in the game put Baker up 54-30 and was the last the score of the game for the Gators as Wagner emptied the bench with about four minutes left in the game.
With the Baker backups on the floor the Royals scored the last 14 points of the game but it wasn't enough as they ended their season with a 5-18 record.
"It's always nice when you get an opportunity to play everyone, particularly some of the younger ones," Wagner said. "I'm senior laden any way so when I get the opportunity to play some of the younger ones and give them significant minutes it's always good."
Anderson led the Gators with 18 points. Hudson added 17 and Chestnut's 11 points gave Baker three players in double figures.
Hillary Hendricks scored 16 points to lead the Royals in scoring.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524