After falling behind early, the South Walton Seahawks settled down and pulled off a 44-34 win over the St. Joe Tiger Sharks in a preseason Thanksgiving girl’s basketball tournament at Choctawhatchee High School Tuesday evening.

The Tiger Sharks stepped out to a 7-0 lead in the first couple of minutes of play with Jae Lenox and Mimi Larry scoring.

“They got their layups because we were not getting back … they blew by us,” said South Walton Coach Kevin Craig.

But the Seahawks got back in it with their big girls Aidan Collins and Grace Neville hitting a couple of inside shots and Catherine Coble sinking one from the outside. South Walton trailed 11-10 at the end of the first period.

In the second quarter, the Seahawks took control of the game and outscored the Tiger Sharks 17-3. Ellie Wiggins, who scored nine points for the game, got things started with a 3-pointer, St. Joe answered with an inside shot from Antiuana Croom. South Walton’s Noelani Warren drew a foul and hit both shots, and then came back with a layup seconds later, drawing another foul, which she hit for an 18-13 lead. St. Joe scored one more free throw, and then it was all Seahawks the last five minutes. South Walton had multiple chances from the free-throw line but struggled making only two of six tries in two minutes of play. Stacia Porter came off the bench and swished a 3-pointer from the right corner, then Collins hit one from the paint. With less than a second left on the clock, Warren was fouled. She hit both shots for a 27-14 Seahawk lead at the half.

In the third quarter, South Walton continued to take it to the Tiger Sharks. Wiggins again started things off with another 3-pointer. St. Joe’s Larry scored, and then Collins, who finished with 12 points on the night, made a couple of inside shots. Wiggins was fouled and made two from the line for a 20-point lead. St. Joe scored one more, then South Walton’s Neville and Diora Akramkhodjaeva both went to the line and made both shots. St. Joe’s Lenox scored one last time, but the Seahawks led 40-20.

Not done yet, the Tiger Sharks came back on the Seahawks in the fourth outscoring them 14-4, but it was not enough.

“I was proud of us in the first half,” Craig said in the locker room after the game. “We executed and got back in it and took the lead, took control through the whole third quarter and control through most of the fourth quarter and then we can’t make free throws. We missed a ton of free throws.”

South Walton was 19 of 33 from the free-throw line, while St. Joe made three of seven for the game.

“We couldn’t grab rebounds,” Craig said. “It was getting physical and we weren’t getting many calls. But it’s a very inexperienced team. I’m not going to say we’re young – it’s just inexperience.

“But we won it. There are going to be a lot of growing pains this year,” Craig said.

Up next for South Walton is a 5:30 p.m. game at home against county rival Freeport Bulldogs.