PANAMA CITY — If ever there was a demonstration of execution demoralizing emotion it was evidenced in the girls basketball District 1-5A championship game Monday night at Bay High School.
Rutherford came into the game with the momentum of its first win over county rival Mosley in 13 years during Saturday’s semifinals. It took Choctawhatchee all of 4 minutes to make that stirring triumph a distant memory.
The result was an emphatic 59-36 triumph for the Indians that gave them their own boost entering the region quarterfinals. Rutherford, 15-7, will begin Region 1-5A play on Thursday at Rickards. Choctawhatchee, 24-3, will host Suwannee the same night.
“Yeah, we wanted to come out and go hard from beginning to end,” Choctaw coach Don Brown said of the Indians’ intensity at opening tip-off.
The result was an early 10-0 lead when Nadia Fingall converted a putback with 4:13 left in the first quarter. Rutherford used long-range shooting effectively in winning its first two tournament games, but when the Rams started 0 for 9 behind the arc in the first quarter Choctawhatchee was able to produce 11 points in transition.
The Indians already had opened a 20-2 lead after eight minutes, and their district title basically was secure at that point.
“We watched them all year and knew they liked to shoot the 3-ball,” Brown said of the Rams. The Indians paid close attention to Rutherford sharpshooters Tatyanna Bell and Alishia Williams on the perimeter, but were content to let their teammates fire away.
Rutherford wound up 4 for 26 on 3-point attempts, Williams and freshman Jasmine Patterson each notching a pair.
Otherwise, the Rams were unable to match the Indians’ athleticism. Choctawhatchee finished with 21 points in transition, but also was the quicker team on both ends of the floor. That was underscored by Rutherford being forced to stay in its zone defense for three quarters despite trailing by 20 or more points throughout much of the middle stanzas.
Sophomore post player Fingall led the way for the Indians, who were state runners-up last season in Class 6A and expected by many to take a step back this winter due to graduation losses. That hasn’t been the case thus far as they have yet to lose a game this season to a Florida opponent.
Fingall added 11 rebounds and five blocked shots and freshman Gabrielle Brown had 12 points.
“A lot of people didn’t think they were capable of this,” Brown said of his team. “They want to make a statement.”
Freshman Patterson was the best player on the floor Monday for Rutherford. In addition to a team-high 11 points, she added seven rebounds and three blocks. Bell had seven points and Williams and Marsheba Addison six apiece, but there were no theatrics on this night to complement Saturday’s performance.
Bell 2 3-4 7, Addison 3 0-0 6, Williams 2 0-0 6, Watson 0 2-4 2, Hills 1 2-2 4, Patterson 4 1-3 11, McMillan 0 0-0 0, McElroy 0 0-0 0, Kahl 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 8-13 36.
Matthews 2 0-0 4, Brown 5 0-2 12, Spaw 3 1-2 7, Fingall 8 5-7 21, Washington 2 1-1 5, Roney 0 0-0 0, J.Riggs 1 0-2 2, Rollins 0 0-0 0, Mammah 1 0-0 2, T.Riggs 1 0-0 2, Moore 1 2-3 4, Sanders 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 9-17 59.
Rutherford 2 10 11 13 — 36
Choctawhatchee 20 13 11 15 — 59
3-point goals: Rutherford 4 (Williams 2, Patterson 2), Choctawhatchee 2 (Brown 2). Total fouls: Rutherford 13, Choctawhatchee 14. Fouled out: Rutherford (Addison). Intentional foul: Rutherford (Bell).