Girls Basketball: FWB, Crestview win district championships
Fort Walton Beach is built on defense. Always has been.
So naturally, Mercedez Claybrone knows a winning formula is built on effort on that end of the floor.
"Don't take possessions off, the third-year Vikings coach said. "Our defense is our strength and teams score when we take breaks."
There were no breaks in Friday night's District 1-5A championship, when the top-seeded Vikings got a late defensive stand and prevailed 42-41 over second-seeded rival Pine Forest on Shameir Quimby's bucket with 3.2 seconds left at the TeePee. True to Fort Walton's hustle, the Eagles didn't get off an attempt at the game-winning shot.
Queue up the celebration. The hardware. The future banner. The automatic postseason bid for a team who just continues to win under Claybrone, who in her three-year tenure is bidding for a third straight Coach of the Year honor.
Quimby scored 21 points, Ka'Mariya Simmons added eight points and Harmoni Carswell chipped in seven for the Vikings, who in a wry nod celebrated on their archrival's home court after doubling up the Big Green 42-21 in the semifinals.
Now the Vikings (18-6), currently ranked second in Region 1-5A and third in the state, await the FHSAA Selection Show on Sunday.
District 1-6A Final
No. 1 Crestview 38, No. 2 Pace 28
Inarguably, there wasn't a tougher district in 6A than District 1.
Crestview at 20-7. Pace at 18-8. Niceville at 18-6. Navarre at 15-9. It appeared anyone's game ... well, that is until Crestview put to rest any debate parity, any debate of its state title contention.
In a lockdown defensive effort where no Dawg scored more than 11 points, Crestview outscored Pace 21-10 in the second half of a 38-28 win for the District 1-6A title. Yep, the very same Pace team that two days earlier eliminated Niceville in a 55-50 semifinal victory.
"I could not be more proud of or for this group of extremely talented and hardworking young ladies!" Crestview coach Connor Williams wrote on Facebook. "To be in a position with win a district title in a very tough and competitive district is outstanding!
"... This District Championship means so much to me … my third season as a head coach, my first at Crestview … to continue the legacy my dad, Steven Williams, started back up at Crestview … it was the goal! We have accomplished so much, and we still have more season to come! I am so proud of my team, so proud to be a part of this supportive community, and so proud to be a Bulldog! That championship trophy is staying right where it should be! We kept it HOME!"
In a complete team effort, senior Elesi Simmons led the Dawgs in with 11 points, followed by seven from junior Madyson Boydstun, six from freshman Natalie Toney and four from seniors Lauren Cox and Katiya Casey and junior Gracie Boydstun.
With the automatic bid, Crestview now awaits Sunday's FHSAA Selection Show to determine their Region 1-6A opponent come Feb. 9.
District 1-4A Final
No. 3 West Florida 55, No. 1 South Walton 50
A season of peaks and valleys for the West Florida girls basketball team was encapsulated in 32 minutes.
And as has been the case during their 2022-23 campaign, the Jaguars played their best when it matter most Friday night.
Highlighted by a go-ahead bucket from senior guard Skyy Beeks with 45 seconds left, West Florida overcame a frigid offensive start and shaky moments late to upend South Walton 55-50 in the District 1-4A championship game from West Florida High School. It's the first time the team has hoisted the district title since the 2018-19 season.
District 1-1A Final
No. 1 Jay 52, No. 2 Paxton 32
Steve Williams' crew will have to wait for Sunday's FHSAA Selection Show for its postseason fate to be decided.
Paxton (17-9) fell short of an automatic bid with the District 1-1A championship defeat to Jay (18-3). Stats were not reported.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Crestview, Fort Walton Beach girls basketball win district titles