NICEVILLE — After an ugly first half, both teams stepped it up after the break with the Ruckel Rams taking the win on a buzzer-beater by Brendan Giddings for a 35-34 victory over the Destin Marlins.
“It was kind of a tale of two games. The first half nobody could make anything,” said Destin Coach Bob Davies.
Destin trailed 9-8 at the half.
But in the second half, things got exciting.
In the third quarter, both teams put up 12 points with, Ruckel still holding that one-point advantage.
In the fourth, Destin took an early advantage with Isaac Hancey hitting a little jump shot then coming back with a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Marlins on top 25-21.
However, the Rams came back hitting three of four tries from the free-throw line followed by a takeaway and a layup by Caden Bridgeman for a 26-25 lead.
Destin answered with Maddax Fayard driving the lane for two points. About a minute later, Hancey drew a foul and hit both shots from the line for a 29-26 lead with 1:11 left to play.
At that point, the Rams started forcing fouls hoping for a chance to get the ball back. The Rams sent Fayard to the line and he picked up another Destin point for a 30-26 advantage with 46 seconds left.
Ruckel pushed the ball down the court and Demontre Allen nailed a 3-pointer to close it down to a one-point game.
The Rams forced another foul putting Destin’s Asa Newell on the line. Newell hit the first of two tries with 26 ticks left on clock.
Ruckel again moved the ball down the floor quickly with Jack Broutin taking it to the basket to tie the game at 31-31 with 13 seconds left. Broutin was fouled on the way to the hole and picked up another point at the line for a 32-31 lead.
Destin got the ball back with 10 seconds and called a timeout. Hancey, who got hot the second half for the Marlins, drove the ball inside, hit the layup and picked up a foul for a three-point play and a 34-32 lead with 7 seconds left on the clock.
With roar in the gym, the Rams pushed the ball down the floor and instead of taking it inside, Giddings let one from fly from the 3-point arc. The ball swished through the net and the home-crowd went nuts.
“I was happy for that kid that hit that 3, he plays so stinking hard,” Davies said.
As for the Marlins, Davies saw a few positives.
After Hancey had only two points the first half, he came roaring back to post 17 in the second for a total of 19 points.
“He started taking it to the basket and scoring in the paint ... he got his confidence back,” Davies said.
Fayard and Newell each scored six for the Marlins.
Top scorers for Ruckel were Demontre Allen and Broutin each with nine points.
As for the final Ruckel score, Davies took the blame.
“I messed up at the end,” he said.
He had thought that Ruckel would try to drive the ball inside and had opted to put Price Bowen inside to steal the pass. But instead, the Rams took the outside shot.
“I take the blame for it,” Davies said.
Up next for Destin is a road trip to Crestview on Jan. 16 to take on the Shoal River Mustangs.