MANDARIN - After less than 24 hours earlier, losing a nail biter (52-49) to Fleming Island when the team just couldn’t hit a three to tie the game, the Orange Park Raiders hitched up the wagon and …
MANDARIN - After less than 24 hours earlier, losing a nail biter (52-49) to Fleming Island when the team just couldn’t hit a three to tie the game, the Orange Park Raiders hitched up the wagon and made the trip over the Buckman Bridge to take on the Mandarin Mustangs for some Friday night revenge.
The Mustangs were on the receiving end of the Raiders vengeance as they came out on fire to get back into their winning ways hitting six 3-pointers, four coming from Raider guard Thomas Faucett alone. Faucett, hot on defense as well with several jams in the lane to slow the Mustangs, and bolstered by a huge defensive night from Johnnie Johnson under the glass, saw the Raiders hold the Mustangs to five stingy points in the first quarter on their way to a 60-39 shellacking of the Mustangs.
“This was good,” said Raider Head Coach “K” Derek Kurnitsky. “After a really tough loss last night, I wasn’t worried physically, but I wanted to see where we were at mentally. And we answered the bell, you know?”
It took the Raiders just 15 seconds to get on the board and from the speed of the reset, the Mustangs knew they picked a bad night to schedule the Raiders at home. With 2:00 left in the first quarter, Archieve Triggs III nailed a three pointer followed by a Johnson steal on the reset, laying up for another two. After another defensive shutdown, Faucett added his three to open the lead 18-5 as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
The second quarter was all Triggs on offense with eight points, assisted by Faucett hitting another of his three’s. Johnson added with a foul shot draining to head into the locker room with the Mustangs head spinning; down 30-14.
The only lull in the game for the Raiders was out of the locker room where they were still very up tempo, but at one point throwing the ball up six times without a drain, almost as if the ball and net were opposing magnets. “We just come out in the third quarter and do that,” said Kurnitsky. “It’s the fourth game this week. So I can tell our legs were down a little bit.”
Not letting things get too whacky, Coach K called for a timeout and settled his troops with his calming, focused talks. While the offense was getting the shooting sights recalibrated, the defense continued to keep the heat on the Mustangs. Then like a pilot light lighting off the main burners, the Raiders came alive in the last two minutes of the third quarter to send a clear message to the Mustangs that they were nowhere near done with them as Faucett banged out a pair of three’s. Not to be outdone, Bryan Falcon hit for a three of his own, closing the quarter out 47-30.
The final stanza saw the Mustangs try an Orange Park favorite going half court heavy press defense to try and shake things up. Instead of rattling the Raiders, the press defense had the opposite effect, literally electrifying the Raiders as Orange Park displayed their sharpest, fastest passing of the entire game. Mandarin simply could not stay up with the Raider speed and lost situational awareness after the ninth or tenth pass. Once they saw the Mustang’ guard down, the Raiders drove the lane and finished with nothing but two’s in the last 8:00.
“We didn’t get rattled. We have spurts where we look amazing. We just have to bottle that up so we can do that all the time, you know?” With :25 seconds left to play, Coach K turned to his bench and said “If we hit 60, it’s pizza Monday. As if on cue, with :02 seconds to play, the last basket dropped. “It’s pizza Monday…” The Raiders so dominated, every player but two scored at some point during the game to complete the 60-39 victory, while holding every Mustang player but one to single digit scoring. “It was a good win for us. Anytime you can win on the road, it’s good.”