CRESTVIEW  — Next year, things should be better for Crestview High School’s girls basketball team.

The Bulldogs played much of the 2015-16 short handed after departures and injuries reduced the Crestview starting lineup to one returner, Tiara Payne.

Despite a season of adversity the Bulldogs battled until the very end.

The end came Tuesday against Fort Walton Beach in the opening round of the District 2-6A tournament.

Crestview led 21-8 with less than a minute left in the first half, but as the old Paul Simon song from 1977, “Slip Sliding Away,” pointed out, “The nearer your destination the more you’re slip sliding away.”

A young Bulldog team, comprised of many players that would have been on the junior varsity, saw the game slip slide away in the second half as Fort Walton Beach rolled to a 50-38 win.

“We had the perfect game plan,” Bulldog Coach Kathy Combest said. “But my girls are young. I have four girls that start that (should) play JV (junior varsity).

“I think the turning point in the game was them turning up the defense and our girls freaking out. You have to play the whole four quarters. You can’t assume because you are up 10 or up 12 that you are going to win.”

The first 15-and-a-half minutes of the game belonged to Crestview (8-12) as the Bulldogs pounded the ball inside to Payne and Netaya Winston. Back-to-back scores by Aliyah Brown and Amiah Banks gave the Bulldogs a 13-point lead with 75 seconds left in the first half.

The final 16-and-a-half minutes belonged the Vikings. A pair of P-Nut Payton baskets in the final 35 seconds of the first half pulled the Vikings (18-6) to within nine at the half. The lift seemed to carry over into the second half as Fort Walton Beach outscored Crestview 38-17 to secure the win.

Payton led a trio of Vikings in double figures with 17 points. Loesa Greenwood scored 13 and Davenport added 12.

Payne led Crestview with 16 points. Winston added 10.