Lady Marlins prevail in semifinals

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After falling to the Pryor Pirates twice during regular season play, the Destin Marlins beat the Pirates when it counted in the Okaloosa County Middle School Girl’s Basketball Tournament. Destin put Pryor away 56-34 Tuesday evening in Fort Walton Beach in the semifinals. 

Destin's Maya Weber tries to block out a Pryor Pirate during the first half of play. Weber scored 12 points in the 56-34 Destin win.

“The girls really wanted it. You could see it on their faces. It was great,” said Destin coach Derrick Everett. 

Earlier in the season, Destin lost by six to Pryor and then by two. 

“We really wanted it and they came out and showed it,” Everett said. 

Destin's Gabbi Diaz stands her ground against a Pryor Pirate. Diaz scored 12 points in the 56-34 victory.

In the first half of play Tuesday night, the Marlins played catch up. Down 8-4 in the first quarter, the Marlins rallied in the last two minutes to tie the game at 10-10 at the buzzer, with Avery Cowles scoring on a turnover and then Maya Weber making two inside shots. 

In the second quarter, the Marlins lost ground again with the Pirates putting up six points before Destin got on the board. Destin’s Weber hit a jumper, then Kaylee McKissack worked the baseline for a bucket. Weber came back with an inside shot to tie the game at 16-16.

Not done yet, Weber and Neilya Stewart hit back-to-back basket to put Destin on top. Pryor scored one more basket before the half. Destin led 20-18. 

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At the start of the third, Pryor scored first on a shot from Olivia Alexandria to tie the game for the last time. At that point, Destin turned it up and notch with Chloe Lindsey nailing a 3-pointer and Stewart a jumper.

Pryor scored from the baseline, then Destin went on an 8-point run. Cowles swished a 3-pointer up the middle, Stewart added a free throw, and Gabbi Diaz, who played with three fouls most of the first half, made two baskets back-to-back. By the end of the quarter, Destin was up 37-28. 

Destin's Neilya puts up a layup in the second half against the Pryor Pirates. Stewart scored nine points in the 56-34 victory.

In the fourth, the Marlins didn’t let up pressing the Pirates and making the shots on their end for 19 points. Six Marlins scored in the final stanza with Cowles leading the effort with six points. 

For the game, Destin had three players in double digits: Diaz and Weber each scored 12 and Cowles, 11. Stewart scored nine, while Lindsey and McKissack each had six. 

The Destin Marlins' Avery Cowles, Neilya Stewart and Gabbi Diaz surround Pryor's Brie Rivers. The Destin Marlins won the semifinal game 56-34.

Alexandria was the top scorer for the Pirates with 11 points. 

What won it for Destin? 

“Honestly, just playing together,” Everett said. 

“They passed the ball well; they ran the game plan and it just worked out. This is a special group of girls. 

“It was a group effort … it was legit the whole way,” he said.