CRESTVIEW — A tenacious Crestview boys basketball team hosted District 2-6A leader Fort Walton Beach riding a three-game winning streak and looking for their third-consecutive district win.
Down 5-0 early in the game, the Bulldogs quickly found their stride on the way to a 57-42 win over the Vikings.
Bulldog coach Ken Meisner said the formula for success was a simple one.
“The key tonight was the same thing it’s been the last couple of nights, and that’s hustle,” he said. “When you hustle you can do a lot of good things. I think our conditioning is doing well and it’s starting to pay off.
“Fort Walton had a long road trip to Memphis this weekend and they looked a little tired, but they are going to be back. They are still the team to beat.”
Things didn’t look so good for the Bulldogs when Viking post player Tyrone Culbreth scored the first basket of the game on a fourth offensive rebound of the possession and turned it into a 3-point play making a free throw.
A basket by Israel Black made it 5-0 Vikings.
Roman Donofro picked up the first Crestview basket on a 3-pointer at the 6:15 mark in the first quarter. Ronnie Baylark then took as the Bulldogs (9-9, 3-3) came plugging back.
Baylark score eight of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter scoring the last six points of the period to put the Bulldogs in front 17-13.
Crestview held the lead most of the second quarter. The Vikings (12-6, 4-1) tied the game at 19-19 on a Culbreth score with 2:25 left in the quarter.
A Chris Bowden basket at the 2:02 mark put Fort Walton Beach up 21-19.
The lead lasted less than 30 seconds as Crestview’s Clay Hancock it a 3-pointer with 99 seconds left in the half to put the Bulldogs in front to stay.
A Denzel Ware basket with 55 seconds left in the second quarter gave Crestview a 24-21 lead at the break.
The Bulldogs broke the game open in the third quarter as they out scored the Vikings 18-12.
Baylark continued to have a hot hand with third scoring six more points.
Jonathan Buckelew helped the Bulldog cause with a pair of 3-point baskets.
Crestview’s biggest lead of the game of 18 points came at the 2:02 mark in the fourth quarter when Jerry Aaron hit a basket to make the score 55-37.
After the game Viking coach John Lavin made no excuses for his team.
“They came with a belief in themselves in playing together,” he said. “They played a more together game.
“I thought our energy wasn’t there and they were the better team tonight. You have to come ready to play every night.”
Meisner, who was named the Crestview coach, right before the start of preseason practice found it hard to believe that the Bulldogs had finally pulled even on the season after a slow start.
“It’s astounding to win four in a row,” he said, “and to get to .500 in district is actually is crucial.
“You can’t say enough about these kids from Crestview. They keep battling and my hat is off to every player on this team.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524