NICEVILLE — Crestview boys basketball coach Ken Meisner had a three-word challenge for the Bulldogs prior to Friday’s District 2-6A boys basketball game with Niceville.
“Band of brothers,” is what he wrote on the board in the locker room.
“When you say band of brothers to a military unit or an athletic team that goes a long ways,” Meisner said. “These kids bought into that tonight. We win together and we lose together and if we fall we help each other up.
“You don’t leave anybody behind and that’s what we did tonight. Each possession meant something. We worked for it and that’s all we can ask.”
Friday night, the Bulldogs won together beating the Eagles 49-40.
In typical Crestview-Niceville fashion the two heated rivals squared off toe-to-toe trading baskets throughout the first quarter.
Freshman Mitch Morken sparked the Eagles early scoring Niceville’s first five points.
A Morken 2-pointer was followed by a basket by Crestview’s Denzel Ware. When Morken dropped home a 3-pointer, Ronnie Baylark answered for the Bulldogs (7-9, 1-2) as Crestview embraced the band of brothers mentality.
Andrew Mitchell sparked the Eagles (6-12, 2-4) midway through the first quarter scoring six quick points. A Mitchell basket with two minutes left in the opening period put Niceville up 13-12.
Twenty-six seconds later Roman Donofro hit a 3-pointer to bive Crestview a 15-13 lead and the Bulldogs didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Crestview led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and 30-27 at half. Niceville kept things close through the break thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Nicholas Haynes, who led Niceville with 12 points, in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs got a second quarter boost from Trevin Arrington and Rashard Bess, who came off the bench to score five points each and all Crestview to keep the Eagles at arms length.
Crestview’s defense stepped up in the third quarter holding the Eagles to six points. Baylark scored four of his game-high 16 points in the third period as Crestview pulled in front by seven after three.
Donofro’s second 3-pointer of the game at the 5:24 mark in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 45-34 lead and Crestview held on down the stretch to close out the win.
“This does a lot, not only for the program but for the community of Crestview,” Meisner said. “Any time you can beat an arch rival it’s just a great feeling. You saw the electricity with our student section and parents tonight when the kids busted their butts and gave everything they had against Niceville.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524