It was a battle to the end, but the South Walton Seahawks hit some big shots down the stretch to pull off a 75-72 win over the visiting Niceville Golden Eagles in boy’s varsity basketball action.
"Both teams were resilient," said South Walton Coach John Davies. "We just fought so hard and every time when it looked like they were going to get it, we came right back."
With less than three minutes left to play, the game was deadlocked at 66-66. South Walton's Paxton Dixon went to the foul line and hit the first of two to edge ahead. Niceville answered with a putback bucket from Kameron Parker and Mitch Morken followed up with an inside shot to go up 70-67.
The Seahawks came right back with Stephen Stroop knocking down a 3-pointer right up the middle to tie the game again. Niceville pushed the ball down the floor and Morken put a rebound back for two points and a 72-71 lead with 43 seconds left on the clock.
South Walton took it down the court and Nick Fogg, who finished with 11 points on the night, nailed a 3-pointer from the right side to go up 74-72. Seconds later Casey Palmer drew a foul and hit the first of two tries for a 75-72 lead with seven ticks left on the clock.
Niceville's Morken bounced a 3-pointer off the rim and South Walton's Palmer snagged the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
Making the rebounds was a big factor in the win, Davies said.
"We got our rebounding back," Davies said. "When we lose our rebounding … we start losing the game. We've got to rebound. It takes max effort from us, but we have got to do it."
Another aspect that factored into the win was free throws.
"We made our free throws down the stretch," he said.
South Walton was 23 of 37 from the free-throw line, while Niceville hit nine of 20.
In the first quarter, South Walton fell behind 19-14 leaving four points at the free-throw line.
However, the Hawks made up for missed shots in the second quarter. South Walton drove the ball inside time after time, drawing fouls. The Hawks made 12 of 16 free throws in the second period alone, and by the half they led 42-34.
In the third, Niceville got back in the game outscoring South Walton 18-14.
The score was tied five times in the fourth quarter, before the Seahawks captured the win.
"We just attacked the bucket … going to the hole," Davies said.
"And Stroop, out of nowhere with that monster 3" was big, he added.
The Hawks were led by John Woolf with 23 points, including four 3-pointers. Ross Martin scored 16 and Fogg, 12. Palmer hit for nine and Dixon eight.
Hitting double digits for Niceville were Jeffery Toney with 16 points, Mitch Morken with 15, and Kameron Parker, 10.
Up next for South Walton is a 7 p.m. game Friday at home against North Bay Haven.