ORANGE PARK - Oakleaf High’s basketball boys heard the call of ‘Defense wins championships’ and proceeded to lock down the raucous Orange Park High Raiderdome frenzied gymnasium to deliver a …
ORANGE PARK - Oakleaf High’s basketball boys heard the call of ‘Defense wins championships’ and proceeded to lock down the raucous Orange Park High Raiderdome frenzied gymnasium to deliver a second-half comeback to beat the Orange Park High Raiders 50-49 off a Markel Allums free throw with just four seconds on the clock.
“Both teams played so hard and left it all out on the basketball court tonight,” said Knights Head Coach Jason Price. “You saw toughness-wise, we didn’t blink when we were down.”
In what could be one of the classic thrillers of this season, the Oakleaf Knights held the hosting Orange Park Raiders scoreless at home through the 2:10 mark of the first quarter, when Raider's shooter Josiah Sabino finally hit for two to break the ice, then put the team on his back on his way to a 29 point night. The Raiders would go down 20 points, 41-21 in the third quarter, before mounting a charge to keep the Knights scoreless for over four minutes in the final quarter and clawed their way back into the game.
With: 31.9 seconds left to play, Sabino drove the far sideline, found an open alley, drove the lane for a layup, scored, and drew a foul. With the successful free throw, the game was tied 47-47 with 25 ticks left on the clock.
On the return, Oakleaf was fouled and hit one of the two shots, putting them up 48-47. The Knights regained possession and were intentionally fouled by the Raiders. Corey Humbles went to the line and hit one of two free throws, putting the Knights out front 49-47. On the counter, the Raiders were fouled sending Corey Thomas to the line. Thomas hit nothing but net on both shots to tie the game with:06 seconds left on the clock.
As the Knights drove the far sideline, Raider D’Marre Craddock blocked the Knight’s Markel Allums, sending him to the line. Allums first shot missed sending the Raiderdome into a frenzy.
“Overcome is the word of this season,” said Allums after the thriller.
The second shot bounced its way in, putting the Knights up 50-49 with :03.9 seconds left.
Orange Park zigged and zagged into the offensive end, launched the shot before the buzzer and as the horn sounded, the ball bounced off the backboard, hit the rim, and bounced out, deflating the home crowd, and sending the throng of Oakleaf fans into hysteria as the Knights beat the Raiders 50-49 for the second victory over the Raiders just 14 days apart.
“We’ve been in these kinds of games all year,” said an exhausted Price. “Almost every game we played has been close.”
What ended in the most high-intensity game of the season, started quite docile with a 10-4 first quarter that saw Orange Park scoreless for almost six minutes as Oakleaf played defense as if the Knights decided to wear the Raiders like sweaters anywhere they went on the court.
“Too long… Too long to get on the board,” said Raiders Head Coach Derek Kurnitsky. “We were tentative early, not aggressive enough. We settled too much for jump shots.”
As the second quarter picked up intensity, with :24 seconds until the half with Oakleaf in control, a student decided to run onto the court and stop play, killing a little of the momentum. The Knights took a 10-point 27-17 lead into the locker room, looking to be firmly in control.
The third quarter was more Knights highlights with Oakleaf finding the corners left alone and nailing a couple 3-pointers before the Raiders had enough and started pressuring after finding themselves down 41-21 with 4:00 left in the quarter. After a few timeouts, the Raiders found their footing and stymied the Knights for the remainder of the quarter for a 31-41 end of the third quarter.
The beginning of the fourth quarter had the Knight’s fans worried as David Compare (12 points on the night) went down with an ankle issue that kept him off the court the rest of the game.
At the 4:30 mark, with the score 47-37, the Raiders started cashing in on the Oakleaf boards, driving, and draining. At 3:41 Sabino hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, 47-40. With only :31.9 seconds to play, the Raiders drew to within 3 points, 47-44. Off another late game Oakleaf miss, Sabino took the ball and again pulled out all his tricks, pivoting around defenders and running the far sideline until he saw an alley open up and drove hard, hit a textbook layup, and drew a foul. His perfect free throw tied the game at 47 with :22 seconds left. With Oakleaf controlling the ball, Orange Park went uber-aggressive and forced the Knights to shoot. On a layup, the Knights drew a foul then hit one of two shots to go up 48-47. The Raiders lost the ball and intentionally fouled the Knights sending Allums to the line where he hit one of two for a 49-47 lead. With precious few seconds left, Orange Park worked the ball and looked for a shot.
“We battled our butts off to come back from being down 20,” said Kurnitsky. “We can’t do that. But to me, it’s a win in my book.”
The Knights threw-in with :06 seconds left to play. Orange Park, in an aggressive man-to-man, pressed hard to the point of D’Marre Craddock trying to stop Markel Allums progression down the far sideline. The two collided and Craddock was called for the foul. Allums kept everyone’s heart stopped after the first miss, thinking we may go to overtime, then bounced the second shot in. Orange Park’s final attempt was close, but never dropped. “You know, I’m not speechless often” said Price. “We just played out hearts out. Give Orange Park credit- this is one of the best rivalries in the state. It always comes down to crazy stuff.”