CRESTVIEW — Mercedeze Claybrone was hitting on all cylinders for the Fort Walton Beach High School girls basketball team Tuesday night as the Vikings took on Crestview in a District 1-7A game.
Claybrone scored a game-high 36 points and had just enough help from her friends as Fort Walton Beach rolled to a 57-51 win.
Crestview's loss to the Vikings came one night after the Bulldogs beat Walton 66-64 in a game that came down to the last minute.
Bulldog Coach Kathy Combest admitted Monday's game might have affected her team against the Vikings.
"It probably took a little bit out of us," she said of Monday's game. "But we've got to make the plays. We've got to make the lay ups.
"We've got to control the blocks (rebounding)."
Claybrone's first basket came with 5:15 left in the first quarter to give the Vikings a lead they would hold the rest of the game.
It might have taken the 5-foot-11 senior three minutes to get warmed up, but once she got started she was virtually unstoppable. Claybrone did most of her damage inside the paint on a variety of back door cuts. She also hit 10-of-15 free throws.
Claybrone finished the first quarter with 10 points. And while she was a one-woman show the Bulldogs kept things close playing team basketball and sharing the wealth.
Crestview freshman KK McTear, who scored 29 points against Walton on Monday, remained hot Tuesday with 21 points. Six of McTear's points came in the first quarter as Fort Walton Beach led 13-9 after one.
Ariann Simms came on strong in the second quarter for the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-2) scoring seven of her 15 points in the period. Simms strong showing allowed Crestview to cut a point off the Viking lead as the teams headed to halftime with Fort Walton Beach up 26-23.
Three points was a close as Crestview would get all night.
Claybrone's hot play early in the third quarter allowed the Vikings to extend the lead to 33-24. But a young Bulldog that often had three freshmen on the court at once refused to break.
Nyquaja Collins scored five points in the third to keep Crestview in the game. A 3-point play by Collins with 52 seconds left in the quarter cut the Viking lead back to three points. But the Vikings hit a pair of late free throws to end the period and extend the lead back to five points.
The fourth quarter was all about free throws as the Vikings got to the line 16 times and scored seven points from the stripe.
The Bulldogs only had seven free throws in the period and hit four.
In the end free throws might have had as big a say in the outcome of the game as Claybrone.
The Vikings went the line 35 times and hit 17 free throws while Crestview only shot 18 free throws and hit 11 of them.
She scored most of her points from inside the paint.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.