Raiders rock the ‘Dome for K-Man’s first title

Doug Deters
Posted 2/16/17

ORANGE PARK - Revenge is a strong word. In sports, revenge can be the ultimate motivator especially for high school athletes.

One year ago Baker County ended Orange Park’s season with an upset …

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Raiders rock the ‘Dome for K-Man’s first title

Posted

ORANGE PARK - Revenge is a strong word. In sports, revenge can be the ultimate motivator especially for high school athletes.

One year ago Baker County ended Orange Park’s season with an upset win in the district semi-finals to end the Raiders season.

“I don’t believe in a revenge game and we never talked about it...But I know our guys thought about it alot” said Orange Park Raiders head coach Derek Kurnitsky after his Orange Park High Raiders basketball team scored a 60-52 district 4-6A championship win over top-seeded Baker County High School on Friday in Orange Park’s Raiderdome gymnasium. Baker County was the district 4-5A runnerup the past two years to Bishop Kenny, last year’s 5A runnerup.

Orange Park (14-13) returns to the Raiderdome Thurs., Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. to host Terry Parker High (18-3) the district 3-6A runnerup to Ribault. Parker is ranked 11th in 6A by Maxpreps. District 3-6A featured four teams with winning records; Ribault (18-7), Parker (18-3), Bishop Kenny (20-7) and Yulee (15-7).

The game started tight with both teams amped up with a district title on the line. Orange Park’s sharp shooter Blake Partin scored two free throws at the 5:18 mark of the opening quarter for the game’s first baskets. The Wildcats would finally score their first basket with 4:15 left in the first quarter to tie the game at two. Luckily for both teams and the packed “Raider Dome” fans in attendence those baskets finally took the tightness out of both teams.

Raider guard Jalen Oliver would penetrate and dish to an open Partin for a three pointer that would ignite a 7-2 run to give Orange Park a 12-5 lead with just under one minute left in the quarter. Baker County would answer with two baskets in the final 50 seconds to close the gap to 12-9.

The Raiders would have perhaps their best (And most important) eight minute stretch of the season during the second quarter. Orange Park would score five quick points in the first minute of the quarter that included a three pointer by John Abate to extend the lead to six points. Jordan Bundy would extend the lead to eight points on a lay-up then a Ty McBride steal and open lay-up would push the lead to 25-15 midway through the quarter. Partin would hit another three pointer later to give the Raiders an 11 point lead and he would lead all Orange Park scorers with 15 points. McBride would then work the clock down to the final seconds and hit a difficult fade away 17 foot jumper at the buzzer to give Orange Park a commanding 32-19 halftime lead outscoring the Wildcats 20-10 in the quarter. Orange Park was also commanding the interior against the bigger Baker County front line. Although undersized, the Raiders would use a double teaming tactic to Wildcat post players that touched the ball which forced much more outside shooting than the Wildcats are used to taking.

“Our shooters were better than their shooters tonight. They had great athletes but we countered with great basketball players” said Kurnitsky.

The second half saw Baker County going to a man to man defense which is not normal for the predominately zone defensive team. The Raiders stayed true to their offense and continued their ball movement and fast pace. The teams would trade baskets for the majority of the quarter until Blake Partin got the crowd on their feet with a four point play on a corner three pointer to regain the 13 point advantage with three minutes left in the quarter. A visually frustrated Wildcat team had body language that said the 13 deficit would not be overcome on this night.

“We needed to have more energy than Baker County. We made sure we were going to go right after them and be the aggressor” said Partin who finished with 15 points despite battling foul trouble much of the game.

The fourth quarter was much like the third with the Wildcats simply not being able to cut the lead to under double digits. The night could be summed in one play made by the Raiders in the fourth quarter. Diallo Bryant had the ball stolen from him that resulted in two points for Baker County with three minutes left. Bryant would get the in bounds pass and immediately go coast to coast for a lay-up to make up for his mistake sending the message that whatever Baker County can do, the Raiders had an answer for and could do it better.

“The last few games we have been locked in and focused,” said Oliver. “We are playing together as a team and we are going to be tough for any team that we play in the Regional tournament.”

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