SANTA ROSA BEACH-- Morgan Kennedy split a pair of defenders, penetrated to the right elbow and out of the corner of her eye saw a wide-open Katie Logan beyond the arc on the right wing.
Up until the 2:15 mark of the third quarter, measuring nearly 22 minutes of play in Tuesday night's Class 1A region semifinal against Cottondale, the Seahawks had yet to score a basket outside the post. Yet they led big, scoring 28 points in the paint alongside seven free throws to jump ahead 35-21.
But South Walton head coach Kevin Craig yearned for that separation, that big shot to break a once 21-14 halftime game wide open. And Logan was there to deliver.
Logan buried the wide-open trey and Craig got caught up in the moment, throwing out a pair of right-handed fist pumps as part of a commanding 65-35 win to lift the Seahawks into the region finals for the second straight year.
“That just got fired up,” Craig said. “Logan gave us a big spark.”
Logan, who ended up with seven points, called the moment thrilling, an instance where she was just happy to be a part of a collective effort that saw six Seahawks score seven or more points and four players reach double figures.
“Coach (drew up the play),” Logan said. “I just followed through with it and was shocked to make it. It was crazy.”
The big spark led to a 23-10 third-quarter run and essentially sealed the win for the Seahawks (22-6), who next host the winner of Ponce de Leon and Port St. Joe Saturday night for a chance to deliver the program's first region championship.
“Herb Brooks, who was the head coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, has the greatest quote and I use this a lot: 'Great moments are born from great opportunities,' “ Craig said. “And that's what we have Saturday.”
Added Logan, “We've definitely come so far and right now we're just trying to make history for this school.”
If the Seahawks can recreate Tuesday night's defensive intensity, they'll be hard -- if not impossible -- to stop.
Unable to work the ball inside or navigate South Walton's zone on the perimeter, Cottondale (12-13) had no semblance of cohesion on offense throughout the game. The only option seemed to be to give the ball to guard Khadejah Ward, who was the lone Hornet in double figures with 14 points, and watch her create. When the dust had settled from the blowout, the stat sheet read 31 Cottondale turnovers and a 22-percent shooting effort.
“Defensively we've been playing well,” Craig said. “Offensively I was a little disappointed, but again when you're off 10 days that kind of stuff happens.”
The offensive disappointment stemmed from a 30 percent shooting effort and 18 turnovers, but only two of those came in a dominant second half where the Seahawks outscored the Hornets 44-21. Also a bright spot was the top-to-bottom effort from a balanced South Walton roster.
Kati Trejo led the team with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Eve Heffron added 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half after getting into foul trouble earlier, and Kennedy and Mackenzie Perot chipped in 10 points each. Add to that seven points from Logan and Taylor Menard, and Craig was thrilled with the way his team responded out of the locker room.
“I was very proud of our seniors in the second half, because I didn't think we had a very good first half,” Craig said. “I thought Morgan and Trejo and Taylor Menard and Eve Heffron, who was in really big foul trouble but gave us a spark in the third, all played great down the stretch.”