GREEN COVE SPRINGS – On the opening night of the 2017 rendition of the Clay Winter Classic Basketball Tournament, fans that thought the night couldn’t get any better than the Clay comeback …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – On the opening night of the 2017 rendition of the Clay Winter Classic Basketball Tournament, fans that thought the night couldn’t get any better than the Clay comeback victory over Fernandina Beach only needed to wait 90 minutes until that was old news.
With winless Ridgeview High sitting in the stands as Clay put up a fourth quarter comeback for a thrilling win, the Panthers, led by Orange Park High graduate and basketball ace Jerome Clyburn, managed to put on their own comeback show only to fall short in the end.
“It’s tough being the new coach and getting kids to buy into the program,” said Clyburn. “I want them to believe in the system because I’ve seen three levels of competitive basketball in my lifetime. I may be a little old school, but I think the kids have to buy in at some point and forget what has happened here in the past.”
Clyburn liked his Panthers against Cornerstone as a tough matchup.
“Cornerstone gets underestimated. They are a tough group of kids over there,” said Clyburn before the game. “They’re going to (figuratively) come in here and punch you in the mouth.” When the catfight (Cougars vs. Panthers) was all over, it took hours to clean all the fur off the court. Ridgeview showed everyone they have done their homework and went on an offensive tear as well as built a defensive brick wall. The Panthers struck hard with a 10-0 lead that would last to the 3:05 mark when the Cougars could get the first point on the board. The intensity didn’t last long enough though as the Cougars clawed their way back into the game and at the end of regulation, tied the Panthers at 47. With momentum on their side, the Cougars slashed through the four-minute overtime and took home a night one 59-53 overtime victory.
“They (Cornerstone)came out and pressed and the guys just got antsy and started slinging the ball,” Clyburn said. “All the credit to those guys for doing what they needed to do to us by pressing us.”
The Panthers were stymied several times as they simply tried to get the ball back in play. Cornerstone continually swatted at the ball, knocking it out of bounds as many as four times before Ridgeview could get it in play. Although they still had possession, the tactic frustrated the Panthers and got them out of their rhythm. In the second quarter, both teams took a defensive posture, slowed the game down and were held to single digit scoring. Cornerstone won the second quarter 7-6, but were still down 20-15 going into the half.
In the third quarter, the Cougars scratched their way inside and began to find the weak areas of Ridgeview’s defense as the Panthers lost that quarter 12-7. The same magic that happened to end the first quarter continued in the third as the Cougars drained a buzzer beating jumper, tying up the game at 27-27.
With eight minutes left to find a way into victory’s door, the Panthers had to step it up.
The tie was not what Ridgeview worked this hard for and in the fourth quarter, they went on an offensive free for all. The problem was no one told the Cougars they were not invited, and they responded as well with both teams going on a 20-point, single quarter offensive attack. With 5:05 left, Ridgeview was down by five, 36-31. At 2:31, tied again at 40. With 1:11 left, Ridgeview was up 46-42. After a three-pointer and a drive to the basket, the Cougars again led 47-46. Panther’s Brandon Maloney was on his way to a game winning layup with 11 seconds left to play and was fouled. As he went to the line, Maloney drained the first shot to tie the game. In what would have won the game, the second shot hit the rim and bounced away. Off the rebound, the Cougars had three tries to sink a basket for the win, but the ball went no where near going in and game went to overtime.
In overtime, the Cougar offense was on their mark, the Panthers; not so much. Defensively, the Cougars came down with every Panther shot, turning it into money. Ridgeview just couldn’t counter the attack and after four extra minutes of play, were six points short, losing opening night 59-53.
“We just need to execute down that final stretch. I think if we can execute, we’ll be alright.” Clyburn said.
In the second game for Ridgeview, against an outmanned Franklin County team, the Panthers won handily 51-37 for the first win of the season.