Buccaneers topple Seahawks in semifinal play

Tina Harbuck

After leading by as many as 11 points early on, the South Walton Seahawks were ousted 49-44 by the North Bay Haven Charter Academy Buccaneers in the semifinal round of the District 1-5A Girls Basketball Tournament in Panama City Tuesday night.

“I saw it coming,” South Walton Coach Kevin Craig said repeatedly just seconds after the buzzer sounded on Tuesday night’s loss. “I’ve been in this spot before when you play somebody on their home floor that really wants it and we’re looking past it.”

Earlier in the season the Seahawks, who went into the district tournament as the No. 1 seed with an 18-4 record, beat North Bay Haven twice in regular season play, 46-37 in their first meeting in December and 70-42 on Jan. 9.

With the two previous victories were the Seahawks looking past the semi-final round?

“I don’t know what it was but I didn’t think we were with it today,” Craig said.

“But you’ve got to give them credit,” he said of North Bay Haven. “We jumped out to a 22-11 lead and then we quit playing. Unfortunately … for eight of them, there career is over. That’s what I feel bad about. The game is a game.”

South Walton got on the board first with Georgia Johnson getting fouled and then hitting a couple of free throws. North Bay answered. Allee Coble hit a jumper then North Bay’s Josselin Geer, who finished the night with 21 points, made a driving layup. Jamesha King followed with a bucket for a 6-4 lead. South Walton answered with Ellie Wiggins hitting back-to-back 3s and Allison Richards putting a rebound back for two and then a jump shot from the side for a 14-6 lead. North Bay closed it down before the buzzer with Aaliyah Bell making a 3-pointer and Hannah Jones hitting one from underneath for a 14-11 game at the end of one.

At the start of the second quarter, South Walton came out and put up eight straight points with Coble, who finished the night with 12 points, scored four and Gracie Ricci and Aidan Collins two each for a 22-11 advantage. Bell knocked down a 3 for the Buccaneers and Devany Beard hit one from the paint for the Hawks. The last four minutes of the first half were all Buccaneers as they put up 13 unanswered points with Geer and King leading the way. Buccaneers led 27-24 at the half.

In the third quarter, South Walton again pulled ahead at the start with Shannon Cole and Richards hitting back-to-back jumpers followed by a 3-pointer from Ricci. North Bay came back to tie the game and then South Walton edged ahead again but not before Geer put a rebound back and King drilling a shot at the buzzer for a 39-39 game going into the last stanza.

This time North Bay took the early lead with King and Geer hitting the opening shots to go up 43-39. Coble closed it down with a 3-pointer, but then North Bay worked the clock as well as working the ball inside with Geer and Bell scoring for a 47-42 game with 1:49 left on the clock.

South Walton came down and tried to sink a 3, but failed. North Bay went back down and drained a little more time off the clock before Geer worked her way inside for another bucket.

South Walton tried another 3 and missed. Ricci finally got a shot to fall with 34 seconds left on the clock. The Seahawks had a couple of more tries at the basket but came up short.

“I noticed from the opening play of the game when we turned the ball over. We got a rebound and just … We just didn’t have it tonight,” Craig said. “I’ve been doing this long enough … and I said it earlier today, I just didn’t see it.”

The Seahawks finished up the season 18-5.

North Bay Haven will go on to face Walton County High at 6 p.m. Friday for the district championship.