FORT WALTON BEACH — A gutsy comeback attempt by the Crestview High School boys basketball team in the championship game of the First City Bank Shootout at Choctawhatchee High School came up just short Monday night.
The Bulldogs, who trailed University High School from Baton Rouge, La., 42-33 with 4:08 left in the game, scored eight answered points down the stretch. But eight wasn’t enough as the Cubs held on for the 42-41 win.
It wasn’t as if the Bulldogs (11-2) didn’t have their chances to win in the final moments of play. Jerry Aaron missed a free throw and Denzel Ware missed two shots from the charity line in the final 3:30 of play.
Ware’s final miss, which came with 7.2 seconds left would have completed a 3-point play and tied the game.
The Bulldogs had one last shot to win the game as time ran out when Ronnie Baylark’s attempt at a game-winner was just off the mark.
The Cubs worked the ball inside to Maxwell Starwood and Wayde Sims in the first quarter to take a 13-9 lead at the end of the first period. Starwood and Sims each had four of their 10 points in the first quarter.
A 3-point basket by John Jones with 55 seconds left in the first quarter completed the Cub scoring in the first period and was a precursor to what was coming in the second quarter.
Jones scored nine of Universities 13 points in the second quarter. All of Jones’ scores came from beyond the 3-point line.
Baylark, who scored four points for Crestview in the first quarter, added five more in the second quarter. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs Baylark didn’t get much help from his teammates as Crestview scored only eight points in the quarter.
The Bulldogs trailed 26-17 at the half.
“The first half was real frustrating, but after that we played alright,” Crestview Coach Greg Watson said. “We still missed a lot of easy baskets. That’s something we can take and learn from, hopefully.
“They are a good team. They’ve got some size and a lot of teams around here don’t have size, so that’s good for us to go up against that.”
A basket by Sims 11 seconds into the third quarter gave the Cubs their largest lead of the night at 11 points.
Four points by Ware and a basket by Aaron pulled the Bulldogs to within five points of the Cubs with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
A 3-point basket by Crestview’s LaDonte King cut the Cub lead to four points at 30-26.
Crestview narrowed the University lead to three points late in the third quarter. By the 7:05 mark in the fourth quarter the Cubs had pushed the lead back to nine at 40-31.
University still lead by nine with 4:08 left in the game following a Ware basket and a pair of free throws by Sims.
As was the case with the Bulldogs, the Cubs left points at the free throw line in the closing moments of the game.
With less than two minutes left to play University missed three free throws on the front end of the one-plus-one bonus (if you make the first free throw you get a second one).
The missed Cub free throws aided in the Bulldog comeback, but in the end the deficit was too much for Crestview to overcome.
Baylark lead the Bulldogs in scoring with 14 points. Ware, who was named to the all-tournament team, had 13 points.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.