Neptune Beach–Fleming Island High senior point guard Colton Zapp scored 13 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining, as Fleming Island rallied to edge …
Neptune Beach–Fleming Island High senior point guard Colton Zapp scored 13 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining, as Fleming Island rallied to edge Neptune Beach Fletcher 52-51 in a Class 6A showdown on January 5.
It was not always pretty and it certainly was not easy, but the Golden Eagles’ third consecutive win runs their record to 16-1. The Senators fall to 10-4.
“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but we have a resilient group and in the fourth [quarter] we were able to hit some timely shots that put us over the hump,” said Fleming Island head coach Travis Chandler.
Fleming Island played its eighth consecutive game without senior point guard Bennie McDuffie, who transferred from Mandarin High School over the summer. The Florida High School Athletic Administration is investigating McDuffie’s eligibility to play at Fleming Island. Chandler hopes to have McDuffie back with the Golden Eagles when they return to action on January 13, hosting First Coast.
“He [McDuffie] is our leader,” Chandler said, who noted McDuffie is still attending classes. “His speed changes the game, so he is the key to what we do.
Note: Clay County Superintendent David Broskie, Clay County Athletic Director John Sgromolo and Fleming Island High Principal Tom Pittman have all been contacted about the process of student eligibility with Sgromolo and Pittman offering no comment responses and Broskie sending a digitial application to Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko who is attempting to review the review process of incoming transfers. A meeting with FHSAA was ongoing on Tuesday about the situation.
After 12 straight wins to open the season, Fleming Island was in jeopardy of suffering its second loss in four games when the Senators’ LaJae Jones hit a stepback jumper to give Fletcher a 47-45 lead with 1:55 remaining. The Golden Eagles worked the ball inside to Demarion Valmyr, who avoided a double-team by finding Zapp on the right wing. The senior, who had made just two of seven three-point attempts to that point, calmly released a jumper from beyond the arc that swished through the net, drawing a loud roar from the Golden Eagles student section behind him. The one-point advantage was Fleming Island’s first since leading 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Valmyr converted a feed from Ahman Greenidge on Fleming Island’s next possession, and when Antoine Sandy made a pair of free throws to increase the hosts’ lead to 52-47 with 28 seconds remaining, the win looked secure. But Fletcher’s Marquis Ghee cut the deficit to three off an offensive rebound with four seconds left, and the Senators forced a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds pass to give themselves a chance to tie. Jones, who led all players with 19 points, lofted a three-point attempt from the baseline that danced softly along the rim before falling off. The Senators’ Seth Allen tipped in Jones’ miss at the buzzer, leaving Fletcher one point short.
“He is a good shooter,” Chandler said of Zapp, who was shooting 46% on three-point attempts entering the game and is the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer. “I am glad he hit the big one down the stretch.”
The final three-pointer was just the fifth make on 30 attempts from beyond the arc for the Golden Eagles, who began the contest converting 35 percent of their shots from long range. Normally reliable shooters Gavin Rayes and Gavin Goldblatt combined to make just one of 14 three-point attempts. The first half was particularly frustrating for Fleming Island, which made just two of 18 long-range attempts in the first two quarters.
Fleming Island’s full-court, man-to-man defense saved them. The Golden Eagles forced 11 Fletcher turnovers in the first half, or else their 26-21 halftime deficit could have been worse.
“We kind of hang our hat on our defense,” said Chandler. “I challenged them at halftime on toughness and asked them to stop being tender.”
Chandler calls the Golden Eagles’ brand of pressure the “run and jump,” since defenders away from the ball have the freedom to “jump it,” or come off of their man and double team the man with the ball.
“It’s all anticipation,” said Chandler.
The Golden Eagles scoring was well-balanced. Valmyr and Greenidge scored 12 points apiece, while Sandy chipped in with nine. Valmyr had seven rebounds, and Zapp had a game-high four steals.
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