They never gave up, but the Destin Marlins did fall short 50-40 to the Bruner Spartans in the first round of the Okaloosa County Middle School Boys Basketball Tournament at Bruner in Fort Walton Beach Monday evening.
"I was proud of the way they came back … going on a 10-point run in the fourth," said Destin Coach Ron Griffiths.
"They have a never quit attitude. They never get down," he said. "They've been a resilient group all year."
Early in the fourth quarter, Destin found themselves behind 42-24. Not giving up, the Marlins ripped off 10-unanwered points. Callahan Phillips hit an inside shot, then Ryan Romair came back with a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Phillips put a rebound back for two points, then Brady Ooten drained a 3-pointer to close it down to an eight-point game with 2:45 left to play.
Bruner hit a couple of free throws, then Ooten swished another 3-pointer got get it to seven points. However, the Bruner duo of Day Day Raine and Aron Willis put up back-to-back layups to go up by 11. Destin's Nick Sherer drilled a 3-pointer to get it back to eight points, but then Bruner's Raine went to the line in the final seconds hitting both shots for a 50-40 win.
To start the first quarter, Bruner put six straight points, however, Ooten cut it in half with a 3-pointer. The scoring went back and forth with Destin trailing 13-10 at the buzzer.
In the second, Destin's Phillips went to the line in the first few seconds and knocked down both shots to close the gap. But the Spartans came back with a couple of fast breaks by Nikko Bryant and Raine. Ooten drew a foul and hit both free throws for Destin. Lane pulled off a couple of layups for the Spartans to go up 21-14. By the half, Bruner led 28-19.
In the third, Destin scored five points to Bruner's eight for a 12-point deficit.
Bruner reeled off six-quick points on fast breaks to the basket by Raine to put the Marlins down by 18, before they started their rally.
Scoring 13 points each for Destin were Phillips and Ooten. Romair scored eight.
Hitting double digits for Bruner were Raine with 21 points and Lane with 18.
Although the Marlins finished the season 4-5, Griffiths said the season shouldn't be measured by wins and losses.
"It's been cool to watch and see the improvement each week," he said.
But the thing that will stick with Griffiths the most about this group is "their coach-ability."
"They absorbed a lot this season. They showed up every day and willing to learn. It's been an enjoyable season. I'll take a team like this every year."