PACE — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The old proverb seems particularly apropos after coach Steve Williams and the No. 6 Crestview girls basketball team escaped the opening round of the Region 1-6A playoffs on Thursday night in Pace with a 48-47 victory against the No. 3 Patriots — the same Patriots who had swept Crestview in each of their three previous matchups this season, including a 50-43 victory in the District 1-6A title game Feb. 7.
The victory is Crestview’s first in the postseason since a 54-46 decision against Leon in the opening round of the 2015 playoffs.
“Pace does such a great job and their kids play so hard,” Williams told the Pensacola News Journal. “I just feel fortunate that we were able to score one more and get it done. I think that we both have so much respect for each other that our kids are going to play hard and play the right way. (Pace) coach (Greg) Gill has done a great job and does things the right way.
“They had a great season. The part I hate is that the state matched us up in the first round. It would have been great to meet down the road, but we will take what we can get.”
Trailing 26-23 at halftime, Crestview (19-7 overall) started to take whatever it wanted in the second half, tying the game 34-34 after three by holding the Patriots (21-7) to just eight points to set up a knock-down, drag-out fourth quarter.
Bulldog freshman wing Katiya Casey led the way with a game-high 21 points and four rebounds, including four 3-pointers, while freshman forward Elesi Simmons posted a 13-point, 20-rebound double-double with five steals. Ten of Simmons’ boards came on the offensive glass.
Rounding out the Bulldogs’ offensive performance, Sarai Bonilla had six points and four rebounds, Melena Stevenson had four points and four rebounds and Jaida Reese and Halee Duncan each had two points.
Pace junior Violette Skipworth scored 20 points.
Up next, the Bulldogs are set to play No. 2 Wekiva at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Apopka. Winners of seven straight, the Mustangs topped Mainland, 63-40, to claim the District 4-6A title before dismantling Leon, 62-17, in the region quarterfinals Thursday.
A victory against Wekiva would send Crestview to its first region final since 2014.