DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — It has been on the job training for the Crestview boys basketball team under first year coach Ken Meisner.
Meisner wasn’t hired until just before preseason drills last month and the Bulldogs have been playing catch up ever since as the new coach and the Crestview players are getting to know what to expect from each other.
The Bulldogs continued their crash course in Meisner’s style basketball Tuesday night when they traveled to Walton to take on the Braves.
A gritty effort by Crestview wasn’t enough as Walton took a 59-50 win.
Meisner said lack of execution was what led to the Bulldog loss, but that he also continues to see improvement from his team each game.
“We ran what we’ve worked on, but we beat ourselves,” he said. “Obviously Walton gets the win, and I give Walton all the credit, they did what they had to do to win, but when we don’t execute we are going to beat ourselves.
“The improvement has been 100 percent. And that’s all you ask for as a coach. As long as you can make improvement throughout the season good things are going to happen and not just during the season, but in life.
The Bulldogs (2-4) played from behind most of the night as the Braves jumped to an early 10-2 lead.
Crestview’s only score in the first 3:30 of play came on a basket by Jonathon Buckelew.
Back-to-back 3-point plays by Bulldog post player Denzel Ware cut the Walton (6-0) lead to 10-8 with four minutes left in the opening quarter.
Just as quickly as the Bulldogs pulled to within a basket of Walton the Braves scored six quick points on a pair long 3-pointers by DeShawn Tucker.
The pattern continued throughout the first half as the Braves scored in small spurts and the Bulldogs responded staying within four or five points of the lead.
Walton led 19-13 at the end of the first quarter and 33-29 at the half.
Ronnie Baylark came up big for Crestview in the second quarter scoring seven of his team-high 18 points in the period.
The teams matched each other basket-for-basket in the third quarter as Walton led 44-40 after three.
Baylark opened the fourth quarter with five quick points. His second basket, a 3-pointer, gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night at 45-44 with 7:03 left in the game.
Crestview held the lead for 75 second until Ken Rudolph hit a pair of free throws to put Walton back in front with 5:49 left in the fourth. Eleven seconds later Buckelew answered with two free throws of his own to put the Bulldogs back in the lead.
A Rudoph 3-pointer started an 11-0 Walton run that put the game out of reach.
Crestview’s Baylark and Walton’s Tucker tied for high-point honors with 18 points each.
Buckelew and Ware each had 12 points for Crestview.
Rudolph added 17 for the Braves and Shaq Huffman had 13.
At the end of the day Meisner knows there’s still plenty of work to do.
“We are learning each other,” he said. “We are still not where we want to be. They are slowly learning that we want to play an up tempo game a little bit and we can do that we can get some easy baskets.
“When we were able to get the ball up the floor we were able to get some easy baskets or at least some easy looks.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524