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Knights open with impressive wins

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/30/22

OAKLEAF - One win was a dramatic come from behind and the other a turn-the-jets on dominate win as the Oakleaf High girls basketball team led by its three senior playmakers, torched two courts in …

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Knights open with impressive wins


OAKLEAF - One win was a dramatic come from behind and the other a turn-the-jets on dominate win as the Oakleaf High girls basketball team led by its three senior playmakers, torched two courts in impressive season opening wins last week to finish week one of the season at 4-1.

At the Inside Exposure elite tournament hosted by Bolles, Oakleaf coach Fred Cole was looking to rebound from an 80-20 season opening snooze win over Middleburg followed by a tough 68-57 loss to a Valor Christian team out of Alpharetta, Ga., that came in at just one win, now 1-4, before taking on a strong Daytona Beach Mainland team, then Creekside. Against Mainland, a 5A region semifinals team last year that lost to Final Four finisher Pensacola Pine Forest, Cole did not get an early look at what his team of five and six fast-flying point guards; read no player over six foot tall, could do if all five on the court were in sync.

“Our district is tough, but I don’t think we are going to face anyone as tough as this Mainland team,” said Cole, who pushed his team in the fourth quarter to overcome a five point deficit in the final four minutes to win a 43-42 contest. “It’s just our conditioning because, as you see, we are small. All we do is run.”

Cole’s main cog is senior point guard Kaylah Turner, just 5’-5”, who has played to not only showcase her immense defensive prowess on the Knights’ point, but also her hard-driving offense that gets attention and creates dishes to senior Fantasia James, 5’-8”, or Kamiya Jones, 5’-5”.

“I think our bench will give me eight players that I can rotate in at any time and not lose any momentum,” said Cole. “A game like this, I kept telling Kamiya to keep shooting her three and if she gets hot on it, she can swing games quickly.”

So far, in three games, Turner and James are both averaging just near 20 points per game while Jones has a six points per game average; mainly with her corner three point shot.

Against Mainland, who opened with their three point shooters building a 17-6 first quarter lead, Turner finished with 33, James with 30 and Jones with 22. The fourth name in the mix is sophomore Trista Brown, 25 against Mainland, who has emerged as Cole’s fourth cog of attack.

In the final four minutes against Mainland, down by as much as 37-32 prior to that final segment, Oakleaf battled back to 40-36 and 43-40 as Mainland’s three point shot went cold and Oakleaf’s turnover to layup ratio doubled.

Mainland attempted a four-corner stall of the game to offset Oakleaf’s halfcourt defensive attacking, but James landed two free throw shots with three consecutive offensive rebounds in a scrum under the net.

With the score 40-37, Mainland got two free throws to 42-37 before Turner hit a 12 foot jumper to 42-39 with 1:48 to go.

A Turner steal at halfcourt turned into a layup before James created another scrum at halfcourt that got a layup to Ja’Nease Bender to 42-41 with 54 seconds to go before Cole called time out.

Oakleaf got the ball at midcourt, but a double team on Turner got a jump ball to Mainland with the clock now at 41 seconds.

At 28.8 seconds to go, Mainland missed a one-on-one free throw that Oakleaf turned around with a jumper to Turner for the 43-42 Oakleaf lead with five seconds left.

Oakleaf continued their bombardment of the nets with a 79-18 blowout of Westside High on Thanksgiving day before inviting Creekside to Oakleaf for a second visit in the month (preseason game) at their Knightsgiving Tournament.

With Jones popping a three on her first shot and Brown landing a jumper, Oakleaf stormed to a quick 5-0 lead against Creekside only to see the Knights of Creekside employ quicker passes away from the Oakleaf halfcourt trap attempts to get an 11-10 lead midway through the stanza and 19-18 to start the second quarter as Oakleaf uncharacteristically missed layups off steals to let Creekside stay in the game.

With some adjustments, Oakleaf turned to its fast-paced attack game and left the half leading 38-29; 41-31 at the half with Turner landing a buzzer three, en route to a 76-60 rout.

Oakleaf continues with its rugged schedule with Bartram Trail (2-3) on Tue., Nov. 29, Paxon (4-1) on Thurs., Dec. 1 and Leon (2-0) on Sat., Dec. 3 at Leon at 3 p.m.

Also in the Inside Exposure tournament, St. Johns Country Day School, now 1-2, lost twice; 57-55 to Valdosta High and 53-52 to Holy Trinity of Melbourne.

Orange Park, now 2-1, faced off against nationally ranked Example Academy of Chicago, and got thumped 62-26.

“That’s one of the toughest programs in the country and we can learn a lot about ourselves from that film,” said Orange Park coach Michael Nesmith. “Our girls saw what elite basketball looks like from another state.”

On Monday, at Ridgeview (3-1), the Lady Panthers saw their unbeaten season-opening streak smacked down by Bishop Kenny (4-1) with the Lady Crusades exacting a 53-28 loss at Ridgeview. Ridgeview was back on the court after a convincing 60-35 win over Bartram Trail on Mon., Nov. 21.

In a much-anticipated grudge match from an upset win over Ridgeview last year at the Clay Christmas Tournament, Keystone Heights (3-1) will host the Lady Panthers on Thurs., Dec. 1. Keystone Heights’ lone loss is to St. Augustine High (5-1), a 39-31 setback. Keystone Heights was scoreless in the first quarter before outscoring the Yellow Jackets 16-11 in the second quarter. Kiley Channell had 16 points and is averaging 17 points per game.

Middleburg (1-3) and Clay (1-2) got their first wins of the season with the Lady Broncos beating Englewood 41-11 on Tues., Nov. 22. Brandy Mann had 14 points in the win for Middleburg.

Clay, under first-year coach Doug Deters, a former coach at Green Cove Springs Junior High, a 37-15 win over KIPP Bold City of Jacksonville.

Fleming Island’s girls team (3-1) also has a new coach, former Middleburg High coach Michael Hayward, who takes over for Joey Williams. The Golden Eagles have wins over Fletcher (55-40), Bishop Snyder (59-39) and Westside (46-35) and a loss to Episcopal (62-55). Top scorer has been junior London Jackson with 21 points per game clip. Victoria Noble adds 11 points per game average to the roster.

Fleming Island’s next game is a Mon., Dec. 5 home game against Matanzas (0-4).