FORT WALTON BEACH — Fort Walton Beach head basketball coach John Lavin knows that basketball can be a game of runs.
And his team had the biggest in Tuesday night’s District 2-6A showdown against Crestview.
Leading 24-22 with just over two minutes to go in the second quarter, Fort Walton Beach ended the first half on a 12-2 spurt, giving the Vikings a 12-point lead, one they would never relinquish in a 66-54 win.
“Proud of the effort tonight,” said Lavin. “We did a good job to establish the lead there at the end of the half. That gave us a big cushion coming out after halftime, which we needed. My hat is off to Crestview, I thought they were the more aggressive team in the second half.”
University of South Florida signees Drew Davis and John Egbunu combined to score 36 points, with Davis leading the way with a season-high 21 points. The 5-foot-10 guard scored six of FWB’s 12 points in the half-ending run, and closed the game with eight straight free throws to seal the victory after Crestview had narrowed the gap to 57-51 with under two minutes left.
“It’s always a gamble to either foul and make them shoot free throws or just try to come back trading baskets,” said Crestview head coach Ken Meisner. “We chose to foul, and Davis just knocked them all down.”
The free throws by Davis stopped a furious Crestview rally that included eight of Ronnie Baylark’s team-leading 19. When Baylark hit a three-pointer with 1:25 to go, Crestview crept to within striking distance for the first time since the second quarter.
“Ronnie had a lot of pressure on him tonight, because coach Lavin and his team had a good gameplan,” said Meisner, “but he did a great job of fighting through that pressure.
Egbunu had 15 points and eight boards for the Vikings, including a rim-rattling 360-degree dunk with five minutes to play that brought the FWB fans in attendance to their feet. Israel black also reached double-digit scoring for the Vikings with 12, and Blake James added nine, all in the first half.
For Crestview, Clay Hancock’s hot shooting kept the Bulldogs close, as the forward connected on four from behind the three-point arc and finished with 14 points. Jonathan Buckelew added 13 for the Bulldogs, who fell to 2-7 overall and 0-2 in district play.
“I told the kids that nobody likes to lose,” said Meisner, “but we competed hard. They jumped out in front of us with that big run at the end of the half, but we kept fighting.”
Now 5-2 overall and 2-0 in district play, Fort Walton Beach takes an extended break before returning to action Friday, Dec. 21 by hosting Niceville.