‘Claustrophia’ brings Fortegra hoops title to Fleming Island

OPHS v. FIHS: Both still undefeated

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 12/15/21

JACKSONVILLE - In an exhausting display of unrelenting defensive pressure, a.k.a. Claustrophia defense, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team embarassed two highly-touted area basketball …

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‘Claustrophia’ brings Fortegra hoops title to Fleming Island

OPHS v. FIHS: Both still undefeated

Posted

JACKSONVILLE - In an exhausting display of unrelenting defensive pressure, a.k.a. Claustrophia defense, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team embarassed two highly-touted area basketball squads; Riverside High at 6-1 and Nease High at 6-2 in back-to-back tournament blowouts to earn the Fortegra 9:12 Invitational championship trophy Saturday at Florida State College of Jacksonville’s South Campus.

“We just keep the pressure on until the other team quits, it’s that simple,” said Fleming Island High coach Traavis Chandler, who scored a 59-31

championship win over Nease after a stunning 30-8 first half. “We got guys that just don’t stop getting after it.”

Led by senior guard Bennie McDuffie, who was the main pressure point of the now-dubbed “Claustrophia” defensive scheme that simply employs full court man-to-man pressure with frequent two and three man collapses on unlucky ballhandlers in certain corners on the court, Fleming Island rifled to early first half leads against Nease and, in the tournament semifinal, against the much taller lineup of Riverside to the tune of 43-20 en route to a final of 72-53.

“We hit our halftime goal of a big lead and that allows me to get the younger guys in,” said Chandler. “The whole idea is to get everyone at the same pressure level. I don’t want any letdown when I substitute.”

From one perspective, Chandler masterful timing of full lineup changes, much like NHL line changes, changes the personnel on the court, but does little to offer any gasp of oxygen for opposition recovery.

Against Riverside, Colton Zapp top scorers with 16 points on top of four of Fleming Island’s 15 steals on the game with McDuffie also swiping four balls and senior center Ahman Greenidge getting three snags.

Zapp hit two of five threes with sharpshooter Gavin Rayes netting four threes; including an half courter at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. Rayes finished with 15 with McDuffie netting 14 points.

Against Nease, with his starters relaxing a bit in the second half, McDuffie ended with 12 as high scorer with Zapp at nine and Antoine Sandy at eight. Fleming Island had 13 steals with 18 assists with McDuffie dishing for seven.

Fleming Island has Riverside coming to town on December 14 and Impact hosting the Eagles on December 16 and a Saturday game at Auburndale, a 6-0 5A region semifinal program last year.

Around the county, and not to be overlooked, is the unbeaten start of the Orange Park High Raiders led by senior Josiah Sabino. The Raiders, 7-0, blasted Bolles and Wildwood in a Friday-Saturday double header that, if trends continue, could make the anticipated January 27 showdown of Fleming Island and Orange Park a game not to miss.

Against Bolles, a 63-45 win, Orange Park got 22 points from Sabino with Jeremiah Gabriel adding 14.

Against Wildwood, Sabino canned 28 points with Gabriel at 14 and Nick Gallego at 10.

Orange Park coach Derek Kurnistky achieved win 300 in his career recently with the January 27 showdown with Fleming Island to be his 317th if his win streak keeps even with the Golden Eagles.

Oakleaf, 3-4, got a thrilling 61-60 win over district rival Sandalwood after a 47-43 loss to Nease and a 76-57 loss to Fleming Island in a Saturday home match.

Clay, now 1-2 after a double overtime win over Bolles, lost a comeback game 48-46 against Gainesville in a game that saw Clay get behind early then climb back into the game with an 18-9 third quarter after being behind 28-17 at the half.

Clay and Oakleaf play Tues., Dec. 14.

Middleburg, 3-5, squeezed in wins over St. Johns Country Day School and Keystone Heights before losing 59-56 to Baldwin on Thursday and Bartram Trail 66-52 on Friday.

Against Baldwin, Malachi Flowers nailed 18 pionts with Gavin Cook, with two threes, adding 12 and Greg Holland and Aidan Farber both scoring 10. Holland had six assists with big man in the middle Tanner Peery getting four dishes and seven rebounds.

In six games, Flowers is averaging 14.3 points with Cook at 12.

Keystone Heights is at 0-7. St. Johns is 0-3.

At Ridgeview, 1-4, the Panthers have a December 1 win over Interlachen with Ponte Vedra (5-2) coming to Ridgeview on Tues., Dec. 14.

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