PANAMA CITY BEACH — It was fitting that a basketball tournament played at Arnold High School produced two Bay County winners on Friday.
Bay opened the day with a 52-38 victory over Gulf Breeze, while top-seeded Rutherford scored enough and clamped down on defense for a 44-23 triumph over Pensacola West Florida Tech in the District 1-5A event. The wins secured a spot in Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game and clinched regional berths for the Rams and Tornadoes. Saturday’s game will determine which team earns at least one home game in the Region 1-5A tournament next week.
Bay 52, Gulf Breeze 38
The Tornadoes weren’t threatened much in the second half despite going cold in the first four minutes of both the third and fourth quarters. Bay did warm up in the final four minutes of each quarter to fend off the Dolphins (10-15), who were one of three teams to defeat Rutherford this season.
There were six lead changes early, Bay grabbing the final advantage, 12-9, on a Devian Taylor 3-pointer late in the first quarter. Gulf Breeze held two short-lived two-point leads and also had a one-point advantage, but it couldn’t fend off a quicker Bay team.
Bay led by four after one quarter, but surged into halftime with a 31-15 lead. Gulf Breeze managed only five points in the second quarter and also tallied the same amount in the third.
The lack of scoring helped Bay maintain its lead despite losing its offensive touch in the third and fourth quarters. Bay scored one basket in the first four minutes of the third, but still led by 16. The Tornadoes finished the third on a 9-3 run for their largest lead of 22 at the end of 24 minutes.
Another lackluster start to the quarter allowed Gulf Breeze a mini run to pull within 42-28 on a Tyler Franks score off one of Bay’s 16 turnovers with 3:52 to play in the game. Bay went on an 8-0 run to build the lead back to 22 on a pair of Christian Shorter free throws to quell any chance of a miraculous rally.
Shorter led Bay with 12 points, while Taylor added 10 on the strength of two 3-pointers. Darreyen Sims added nine points for Bay, which improved to 16-10.
Carson Sharp led all scorers with 16 points and at one point produced more than half (12) of Gulf Breeze’s total output (20) through three quarters. Tyler Franks scored eight and Brian Garbell seven for the Dolphins.
GULF BREEZE (38)
Haplin 1 1-2 3, Crooke 1 0-0 3, Bookout 0 1-2 1, Sharp 7 2-10 16, Franks 3 1-2 8, Garbell 3 0-0 7. Totals: 15 5-16 38.
Norwood 2 1-1 5, Taylor 4 0-0 10, Goodman 0 2-2 2, Foster 2 0-0 4, Shorter 5 2-2 12, Rivers 0 0-2 0, Patterson 2 0-0 6, Wade 1 0-2 2, Brown 1 0-1 2. Totals: 20 8-12 52.
Gulf Breeze 10 5 5 18 — 38
Bay 14 17 11 10 — 52
3-point field goals: GB 3 (Crooke, Franks, Garbell), Bay 4 (Taylor 2, Patterson 2). Turnovers: GB 13, Bay 16. Team fouls: GB 14, Bay 13. Fouled out: None.
Rutherford 44, West Florida Tech 23
Not many expected the first game to be a precursor of what would come in the nightcap. However, Rutherford’s offense also was sluggish at times and the Rams were uncharacteristically careless with the ball with 18 turnovers. They made up for the lack of intensity on the defensive end, as usual, with contested shots and limiting West Florida Tech’s long-range options.
The Jaguars (11-15) hurt Arnold with five 3-pointers and controlled the tempo in a play-in win over the Marlins on Tuesday. There would be none of that on Friday, however, as they were held to one 3, the shot coming in the second half by Nate English midway through the third. It made the score 30-17 in favor of Rutherford (24-3), which easily surpassed that mark in one half in five of its past six games.
Khaliel Spearman, who led the Rams with 14 points, spurred on an 8-2 run to end the third quarter in what was one of Rutherford’s best displays of offense since rolling out to a nine-point to open the game. West Florida Tech, which had 22 turnovers, rallied to within 13-9 in the first quarter and fared better than the previous two meetings between the teams in final margin of defeat.
Rutherford scored 60 and 63 points, respectively, in the prior encounters. Friday’s 23 points, capped by a Devon Miller lay in at the buzzer, were the Jaguars’ lowest output in the three games with the Rams.
Alex Banks chipped in eight points and Jai Jencks and Stephen Carr six each for the Rams. Miller had 13 points to pace West Florida Tech.
Rutherford defeated Bay twice during the regular season by an average margin of 25 points.
WEST FLORIDA TECH (23)
RodneyStovall 2 0-0 5, RoderickStovall 0 2-2 2, Sharp 0 0-2 0, Jordan 0 1-2 1, Miller 6 1-3 13, Herbert 1 0-0 2. Totals: 9 4-9 23.
Steele 1 1-2 3, Williamson 2 0-0 4, Spearman 4 4-4 14, Banks 4 0-0 8, Arts 1 103 3, Carr 3 0-0 6, Jencks 2 2-4 6. Totals: 17 8-13 44.
WFT 9 3 7 4 — 23
Rutherford 13 10 15 6 — 44
3-point field goals: WFT (RodneyStovall), Rutherford 2 (Spearman 2). Turnovers: WFT 22, Rutherford 18. Team fouls: WFT 9, Rutherford 9. Fouled out: None.