Its not a long-standing tradition in Crestview, this dominance on the hardwood, but the pieces are in place for a string of sustained success.
Prior to this season, the girls basketball team hadn’t won a district title since 2004, a narrative that was rewritten on Jan. 31, when coach Kathy Combest’s girls ousted Niceville, 55-45.
“It was just timing,” Combest said. “We didn’t get good until my second year, when we went to the elite eight. Fort Walton Beach beat us in the district last year and we were runners up then we came back and beat them in the sweet 16.
“I think, between us three teams, it could have been us or Niceville, either one. It’s just whoever played good that night.”
Crestview played well most nights, and it only got better when it was time for the boys to tip off. It’s funny, too, because coach Greg Watson’s team suffered nearly half its losses in the first four games.
Paxton, Faith Academy and Chipley all dealt tallies in the ‘L’ column to the Bulldogs. After that Dec. 2 matchup, those tallies became exceedingly rare.
Like the girls, the boys trumped Niceville for the district title, making it a clean sweep over the District 1-7A.
“Those boys in Crestview play ball,” Combest said. “They all do.”
One in particular, Rusty Moorer, plays ball rather well. The rising junior scored nearly 14 points per game and led the team in four separate categories — assists, points, free throw percentage, steals — earning the Daily News Large School Player of the Year.
“I’m just a natural leader,” Moorer said in his Player of the Year interview. “In the first few games, I was scoring four or five points. Coach said, ‘I need you to be our scorer.’ … I think he knew the heart I’ve got and the potential I had.”
As an overall program, Combest admittedly wasn’t so sure about the potential.
Combest was at Baker for 26 years, coaching the Gators’ girls for 22 of them. In that span, she estimated she saw about 15 to 20 different coaches take over at Crestview.
“They never had any consistency,” she said.
When she took over, the Bulldogs were on the heels of a dismal 3-19 season.
“When I was hired, I was asked three things: ‘Can you make our programs respectable? Can you put pride back into those programs? And can you make the community want to come out and watch?’” Combest recalled. “That’s what my goals were. I said, ‘I can do that,’ but I was thinking after I said it, ‘We cannot do that, we cannot do that.’”