NICEVILLE — Choctawhatchee proved unbeatable during the regular season, wrapping up the program' s first undefeated season with a 25-0 mark.
Judging by the Indians' first postseason appearance, it appears that streak of perfection has no end in sight.
Brittany Brown scored a game-high 24 points, Lauren Day added 15 and the defending district champion Indians jumped out to a 37-3 lead en route to a 61-26, running-clock victory over Crestview in Friday's District 2-6A semifinals.
“They're gelling more together,” said Choctaw coach Don Brown, whose team will meet Fort Walton Beach tonight at 7 in Niceville in a rematch of last year's district championship. “Great chemistry, great kids and I'm proud of what they've accomplished so far. This is the playoffs and anybody can beat you so we're going to play as hard as we can play every game.”
Brown, who filled up the stat sheets with seven assists, five rebounds, five steals and two blocks, mirrored her coach’s thoughts, saying “This is the start of a new season and we wanted to come out strong and playing good defense tonight.”
Good defense would be an understatement.
The Indians not only forced Crestview into 22 turnovers, they held the Bulldogs to just two first-quarter points and 15 percent shooting (6 for 39) and didn't allow a single Crestview player to break into double digits in the scoring column. The pick-pocket, suffocating effort was so dominant that Lakayla Robinson, a freshman who scored Crestview’s first basket with 50 seconds left in the first quarter, was the only player to even approach double digits with eight points.
With Brittany Brown attacking the lanes, Day posting a stout inside-outside game and Brittany Washington adding 12 points, the Indians had no such scoring woes. Led by a 20-for-35 shooting effort at halftime, the Indians shot 49 percent from the floor for the game and made 4 of 9 3-point attempts. As for turnovers, the Indians committed just eight as part of an unselfish, fluid offense designed around setting up the best possible shot.
“We're trying to play together because we know we're going to need each other in the harder games,” coach Brown said.
From the start the cohesive play was on display.
Brown led off the night with a layup and the Indians never look back. Washington scored 10 points and was 2 for 2 from beyond the arc, Brown and Day each scored eight and the Indians made 13 of 19 shot attempts in the opening quarter to put the Indians comfortably ahead 30-2.
“They have a good squad, but we just came out, set the tone and played hard,” coach Brown said. “We had all week to get ready for this game and I'm proud of the kids.”
In the second quarter, Brittany Brown just asserted the same dominance that drew the attention of Florida State University. The future Seminole scored 14 points and dished out four assists to lead the Indians into the locker room ahead 49-11. To illustrate her effectiveness, her 22 points alone doubled up the Bulldogs. Washington also ended the half outscoring Crestview, which shot 3 of 17 in the 16 minutes, with 12 points.
Out of the locker room it was much of the same. The lead never fell below 33 and predictably coach Brown pulled his starters late in the third with the running clock, which made quick work of the final frame.
As for being a statement to Choctaw's big-picture outlook at a state title, coach Brown squashed that thought.
“A lot of people have been looking ahead but we've not as a team,” he said. “We're taking it one game at a time.”