FORT WALTON BEACH — There is still a lot of basketball to be played for the Crestview High School girls basketball team.
The Bulldogs are in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. And they might even get another shot a District 1-7A rival Fort Walton Beach High School.
Saturday night was the Vikings’ turn to shine as Fort Walton Beach beat the Bulldogs 48-41 to win the district tournament.
Crestview Coach Kathy Combest said the biggest obstacle facing the Bulldogs was getting over the hump.
“We’ve got to learn to win,” she said. “Fort Walton Beach has been in the situation before and the players have that experience.
“Not a soul on our team has any district championship game experience.”
Combest hopes the tournament will help her team when Crestview travels to Tallahassee on Thursday for a 6 p.m. region quarterfinal game at Leon. If the Bulldogs and the Vikings, who host Chiles in the region quarterfinal, both win the teams will play in the region semifinals at Fort Walton Beach on February 11.
The district final was a battle of wills between two evenly matched teams.
The Bulldogs (18-8) used their quickness and a pressure defense in jumping to a 9-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Jasmine Middle scored the first Bulldog basket off an offensive rebound.
Three-point baskets by Jensis Coleman and KK White along with free throw by Arianna Simms had the Bulldogs standing tall with eight minutes gone in the game.
In a sign of things to come, the Vikings (17-9) struggled from the field two in the first quarter, but were able to get to the free throw line eight times and hit two.
Malaya Evans broke the Viking shooting slump with a 3-point basket with 7:17 left in the first half. DeDe McLane followed with a basket to cut the Bulldog lead to 9-7.
Consecutive baskets by Middle, Coleman and Simms pushed the Crestview lead back up to eight points. But the Vikings weren’t about to go away as they went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 15-15 with 52 seconds left in the half.
Once again Crestview had an answer as Simms and Coleman scored to push the Bulldog lead back to four points at the half.
Even though leading by four at the half the Bulldog struggled from the field and shot several long 3-point attempts that came up short or rattled off the rim.
Two-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter the Crestview shooters seemed to have found their range. Coleman and Simms hit back-to-back 3s to push the Bulldog lead back to eight points.
Fort Walton Beach finished the third quarter with a scoring rampage that cut the Crestview lead to 34-33.
Through three quarters the Vikings were 4-of-12 from the free line. The Vikings lived at the line in the fourth quarter shooting 19 free throws and hitting 10.
Fort Walton Beach also had a field goal from McLane and a 3-pointer from Evans.
White scored all seven of Crestview’s points in the fourth quarter to finish the night with a team best 13. Coleman scored 12 for Crestview.
Evans scored 16 for the Vikings and McLane added 14.
Fort Walton Beach outscored Crestview 14-2 at the free throw line. The Vikings shot 31 foul shots and the Bulldogs shot eight.
“They didn’t beat us on field goals,” Combest said. “They beat us on free throws.”