Before a packed house, the Fort Walton Beach Lady Vikings held on for a 41-39 win over the New Site Royals of Mississippi in the semi-finals of the Destin Holiday Classic at the Destin Community Center Saturday night.
After leading by 16 at the half, the Vikings came out flat in the third and gave up 11 unanswered points.
"I think we got relaxed," said Fort Walton Beach Coach Holly McDaniel. "We didn't play as intense and for a while they were playing harder than us."
In the third quarter alone, the Royals outscored the Vikings 13-2. Malaya Evans scored the lone basket for the Vikings at the 1:56 mark.
"If we don't play hard, nothing good happens. That's with any team, but especially for us," McDaniel said. "All our momentum comes on the defensive end and if we're not playing hard on the defensive end and getting stops, then nothing positive is going to happen."
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Vikings stepped it up just enough to pull off the win.
"We had a little bit of luck and we made some big stops," McDaniel said.
At the start of the fourth, the Vikings struck first with Quay McNabb hitting a basket. Christin Pharr answered for the Royals. The teams swapped baskets back with Faith Mitchell nailing a 3-pointer down the stretch to close it down to a four-point game. Evans nailed a shot from the side to put the Vikings back up by six.
In the last three minutes, the Vikings got into foul trouble with Evans fouling out and Mercedez Clayborne playing with four marks against her. The Royals Pharr hit an inside shot, then Deosha Walker drilled a long shot for a 40-36 game. Grace Elliott worked her way inside for a Royals bucket, but later missed from the free-throw line.
With 1:40 left in the game, Fort Walton's McNabb hit the second of two tries from the line for a 41-36 game. New Site hit a free throw and a buck to close it down to a two-point game. New Site made one last attempt to go up on a missed 3-pointer from Elliott, who finished the game with 12 points.
"We got away from our game plan in the second quarter," said New Site Coach Ronald Clark. "But they came out in the second half and played a lot harder. I was pleased the way we finished the game, just not the second quarter."
The Vikings outscored the Royals 20-7 in the second.
For the game, Fort Walton Beach was led by Clayborne with 12 points, 10 coming in the first half. Deanndra McLane scored eight, while McNabb and Deosha Walker each scored six.
New Site's was led by Pharr with 17 points, and Elliott with 12.
The Vikings were eight of 19 from the line, while the Royals hit six of 18.