CRESTVIEW — Denzel Ware was a force to be reckoned with Friday night as Crestview High School hosted Navarre High School in District 1-7A boys basketball play.
Ware scored 15 points to lead a trio of Bulldogs in double figures as Crestview won 54-41.
Jerry Aaron, 12 points and Ronnie Baylark, 10 points joined Ware in double figures.
The win assured the Bulldogs (15-4, 6-1) at least a tie for first place in regular season district play. A win over Niceville on Friday gives Crestview the top seed in the district tournament that starts Feb. 4 at Fort Walton Beach.
Bulldog coach Greg Watson said he isn't that concerned about where Crestview is seeded in the tournament.
It's important (the seeding)," he said, "but it's not the most important thing. We are kind of going through some stretches where we are not playing real, real well. So my main goal is to get us playing better whether we are seeded one, two or three, whatever it is we have to start playing better.
We are doing it (playing well) in spurts. We will play good for five minutes and then we will have two or three minutes where we are sloppy with the ball and lose a guy defensively. We've just got to fix that."
Friday's game was indicative of Watson's concerns.
The Bulldogs never trailed, but it was only in the final minutes when they were able to put the Raiders (5-13, 1-4) away.
Aaron gave the Bulldogs a quick lead 24 seconds into the game, but Gaitlin Casey, who was the game's leading scorer with 17 points, responded with a score for the Raiders.
Back-to-back baskets by Ware and Aaron pushed the Bulldog lead to 6-2. Casey answered with two more baskets to tie the game with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
A pair of Baylark free throws with 4:05 left in the first put the Bulldogs in front to stay.
Casey continued to do his best to keep the Raiders in striking distance, but the Bulldogs had too many weapons.
A 3-point basket by Navarre's Jaonte Cunningham closed the Crestview lead to 12-11, but a Ware basket and a 3-pointer by Rashad Bess pushed the lead back to 17-11 at the end of the first period.
Crestview led 29-19 at the half.
With Matthew Webb leading the way with a pair of 3-pointers the Raiders chipped away at the Bulldog lead.
Blake Malter's basket with 2:03 left in the third quarter closed the Bulldog lead to 36-32, but that would be as close as Navarre would get as Crestview held on for the win.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.