ORANGE PARK - After a season opening win over Ponte Vedra High, the Orange Park Lady Raiders girls basketball team, chock full of talent including Clay Today player of year Eris Lester, hit a speed bump against Bolles.
“Last night (vs. Bolles, a 59-48 loss), we played uncharacteristic of ourselves and we gave them four or five shots to make one,” said Orange Park coach Michael Nesmith, who guided the Raiders to a region final finish last year. “When you Bolles, a fundamentally sound team, and make just 20 percent of your shots, you are going to lose.”
After a spirited day of inspiration, Nesmith was able to see his Lady Raiders play actual Lady Raider basketball in a tough 61-52 win over Camden County High. 7A-Camden County was playing their season opener.
“We switched up a couple of things tonight and we got our energy player, Alanna Kennedy, back after missing the Bolles game,” said Nesmith, now 2-1 after a 24-6 campaign last year and a region final finish. “Her energy feeds the team and we were flying around the court.”
With Orange Park rifling to a quick 10 point halftime lead, the Lady Raiders kept the foot on the gas behind quick-reacting man-to-man defense led by Autumn Nesmith and Piera Alexander with center post anchored by 6’-1” Mychaela Parker blocking any incoming drives by the Wildcats.
Lester led the Lady Raiders with 20 points with a key three pointer in the Orange Park corner by junior Piera Alexander with four minutes the final stake in the heart of the Wildcats. Alexander had a best game with 16 points.
“We surprised people last year, but we are hitting our stride with a game like this,” said Nesmith, who lost two key seniors from last year’s team; Samantha Hardison (at Spring Hill College) and Nia Brown (at Chipola College).
Ridgeview triple Blocton goes 2-0
Ridgeview High girls basketball already had a double Blocton attack from last year, but 2022 will feature a third Blocton as the Lady Panthers have scorched the first two games with wins of 53-33 over Sandalwood and a 52-20 pasting of Trinity Christian on Fri., Nov. 18.
Ridgeview has two more rough rides in the next week with a trip to Bartram Trail on Mon., Nov. 21 and a home game against Bishop Kenny on Mon., Nov. 28 after the Thanksgiving break.
“Not bad having Nia, a junior, and Nacoya, a sophomore, on the same team, but now we have freshman Narissa Blocton on the same court,” said Panther coach Tyler Miller, who takes over after Gussie Solomon stepped down after a 16-11 season and district runnerup finish to Orange Park. Ridgeview lost in their region opener to Pine Forest, a Class 5A Final Four finisher. “Now we have freshman Narissa Blocton and if the family genetics work, we should be seeing her with more playing time.”
Miller also returns key shooter Paetyn Miller, a hot three pointer ace, to direct traffic in the backcourt with freshman Emma Rayes getting Miller’s attention.
Against Sandalwood, Miller and Rayes led the scoring with Rayes nailing 11 points and Miller at 10 with three three pointers. Nacoya Blocton added nine with Nia Blocton at eight. Narissa Blocton scored five points. The Blocton trio pounded the glass for 31 total rebounds.
Against Trinity, with Miller playing his entire squad, Rayes and Nic Blocton doubled down with 11 points apiece. Rayes netted three three pointers. Nacoya Blocton nabbed 10 rebounds with Nia Blocton five shots.
Keystone Heights opens big versus Clay
Keystone Heights scored a 52-22 season opening win over Clay High, now under the coaching of former Green Cove Springs Junior High coach Doug Deters.
Keystone Heights was led by senior center Dezaray Bright who canned 19 points with senior Kiley Channell adding 14. Bright also had 16 rebounds.
The Lady Indians then ran into a bump with a 39-31 loss to 5A-St. Augustine.
Against St. Augustine, Channell led with 15 with Yasmin Bryant adding 10. Bright had 16 rebounds with Kaitlin Brown snaring 10 off the glass.
Keystone Heights hosts Fort White on Mon., Nov. 21 with Eastside High coming to Keystone Heights Tues., Nov. 22.
A noted showdown with Ridgeview on Thurs., Dec. 1 highlights the return to the schedule after Thanksgiving with the Lady Indians upsetting Ridgeview in last year’s Clay Christmas Tournament.
Oakleaf triple threat throttles Broncos
Led by senior Kaylah Turner’s 34 points, Oakleaf High looks to return to prominence after a topsy turvy 2021 with the Lady Knights, a Final Four finisher two years ago, trouncing Middleburg 80-20 in the season opener for both schools.
Oakleaf coach Fred Cole has an explosive three-man return squad in seniors Kamiya Jones, Fantasia James and Turner to fuel his return to the Final Four.
After an impressive preseason sprawl on Creekside a week prior, Cole’s defensive high-energy attack played out with Turner getting layups off seven of Oakleaf’s 14 turnovers against Middleburg.
Oakleaf’s normally rugged schedule turns to a Mon., Nov. 21 game against Valor Christian of Georgia, with Daytona Beach Mainland (5A region semis last year) to follow on Tuesday.
Scott, Kent double 23s in Spartans win
Recent University of Arkansas signee Taliah Scott opened her senior season with a 23 point effort as the St. Johns Country Day School defeated The Rock 66-61 in their season opener on Tuesday.
Also scoring 23 was junior Mary Kate Kent for the Spartans.
St. Johns has tournament play against Valdosta on Mon., Nov. 21 at the Inside Exposure Classic at San Jose Prep. St. Johns travels to play The Rock against on Tues., Nov. 29.