After leading by 15 points early on, it came down to free throws, and the Destin Marlins didn’t disappoint with Samantha Sherer knocking down three in the final seconds to give the Marlins a 44-40 win over the Bruner Spartans in girls middle school basketball action earlier this week.

“Sam (Samantha) was unbelievable,” said Destin Coach Susie Pierce. “They had four people on her and we still thought that was our best opportunity was for her to have the ball.”

Sherer led the Marlins with 22 points.

Going into the fourth quarter, Destin led 37-32. However, Bruner came out and evened the score and then took their first lead of the game with Paris Smith making a free throw with 51 seconds left on the clock.

Destin came right back with Sherer driving to the basket and drawing a foul. Sherer hit the first of two tries to even the score at 40-40. Seconds later, Sherer was back at the line and again hit the first of two tries to give the Marlins a 41-40 advantage with the gym roaring.

With less than 40 seconds left, Bruner pushed the ball down the floor and was fouled. Beyonce McNabb went to the line but missed both tries.

Destin again brought the ball down court and Sherer made the drive to the hole and was fouled. For the third time in a matter of seconds, Sherer made the first of two tries and then Izabelle Adams put the rebound back for two points for the win.

“That put back by Izy was huge,” Pierce said. “It was a good team win for us."

The Marlins were playing without their No. 2 starting guard Taylor Klosterman, who got a concussion earlier in the week at practice.

“Taylor is one of those kids that does everything and is in the right place, so we had to overcome that,” Pierce said.

And that they did.

In the first quarter, Destin stepped out to a 21-6 lead with five players putting points on the board. Sherer led the effort with nine points. Adams scored six, while Rylee Brown, Kaylin Winter and Jessica Pierce each tossed in two points.

In the second quarter, Bruner stepped up their game and hit the long shots, putting up 14 points while holding Destin to five. The Marlins held on to a 26-20 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Destin went on an 11-point scoring spree with Sherer popping a 3-pointer, another long shot and a couple from the free-throw line. Adams made an inside shot on a turnover and Brown hit a little jumper to give Destin a 37-23 lead with a little more than three minutes to go in the period.

At that point, Sherer picked up her third foul and Pierce benched her until the fourth quarter. Bruner took advantage and put up nine points for a 37-32 game going into the fourth.

A minute into the fourth, Sherer was back in the game and Destin pulled off the win.

In addition to Sherer’s 22 points, Adams scored 12 for the game. Brown made six points for Destin, while Pierce and Winter each scored two.

Up next for the Destin Marlins is a 5 p.m. game Jan. 4 at Shoal River in Crestview.