OAKLEAF - The Oakleaf High boys basketball team, now 11-1, are keeping pace with their school counterparts, the Oakleaf girls team at 14-1, with their own Christmas tournament championship with a …
OAKLEAF - The Oakleaf High boys basketball team, now 11-1, are keeping pace with their school counterparts, the Oakleaf girls team at 14-1, with their own Christmas tournament championship with a 62-36 win over American High of Hialeah in the Gus Gibbs Christmas Invitational staged at Deland High School over the holiday.
Both teams added to their dominant seasons with Oakleaf dispatching of Orange Park 76-54 on Friday and the Lady Knights, now 15-1, rifling past a 12-3 Nease High team on Thurs., Jan. 5 in front of their home crowd.
Over Christmas, the Oakleaf boys dominated with strong defensive play in their three games won with just one team, American, reaching 30 or more points.
“We played three games in three nights traveling back and forth to Oakleaf each day,” said Oakleaf coach Jason Price. “That’s 600 miles of driving in three days and still play with strong energy. I’m proud.”
In game one, against McKeel Academy of Lakeland, Oakleaf won 64-26.
In game two, the semifinal, against Deland, Oakleaf nearly equaled the score of game one with a 69-27 win over the Bulldogs.
Against American, Oakleaf got stats from Dylan Lewis (13 points, six assists), Aaron Rivers (11 points, six steals) and Cameron Coachman (10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots).
Against Deland, Rivers hit for 14 points with four steals with guard Sean Jones adding 11 points.
Price liked the strong defensive effort for this season.
“We have good depth off the bench and don’t lose any momentum off the bench,” said Price. “In the second half of the season, everyone in our district keeps winning and we just have to keep up. There will a lot of teams with 18 or 19 wins. Our offense is starting to push a little to get more points.”
One of Price’s prize coaches, former standout Kevin Griffin Thomas, a.k.a. Dr. Dunkenstein, who was a 6’-8” power player for Price a few years back, has been tasked to bring Coachman into the fold of a dominant post player.
“Kevin and Cameron hit it off last year when Kevin first got here,” said Price. “Think Cameron knowing how good Kevin was makes him listen and trust the process. Our record book will be filled soon with some Coachman stats.”
Against Orange Park, on Fri., Jan. 6, the Raiders traded non-scoring body blows with some “Intra-rivalry” aggression leaving the scoreboard empty before opening with a quick surge; an Avorie Grayson jumper and a Brian Falcone three and layup to 7-0, that put Price on the defensive and needing a time out to catch his collective breath.
The break did little as the Raiders got a three from Achieve Triggs to up the ante to 10-0 before Oakleaf forward Devin Kersh banked a loose ball of the glass to put the Knights on the board at 3:16 to go in the first quarter.
Triggs again put a dagger shot in with a second three to put the Raiders up 13-2. A no-look pass from Oakleaf guard Sean Jones to Kersh got two more for the Knights.
“They were jacked up for this with, I think, 11 of their first 13 shots going in,” said Oakleaf coach Jason Price. “Aaron Rivers, a guard at 5’7”, led in scoring, rebounds and steals tonight.”
With the quarter finally coming to an end, Triggs put a third three in to leave the Knights gasping behind 18-10. Oakleaf 6’-7” center Cameron Coachman and 6’-5” Dylan Lewis got hot with a set of threes to put the score closer going into the second stanza.
“We talked and knew we had to get something going from the outside because they were crowding the lane,” said Coachman. “Me hitting some shots opened that up a little and then we could attack the basket the rest of the game.”
In the second quarter, Oakleaf implemented their full court press defense and got several turnoves to layups from Rivers and Jones with forward Travis Knox, a junior, leading the surge with a three point play to 21-14. Dallas Skinner canned a three to 21-17 as Oakleaf was finding the bottom of the net with five minutes to the half.
A massive blocked shot from Coachman on a Kevin Montorola drive got the crowd spicey, but Montorola hit one of two free throws to 26-20 as Orange Park held their slim lead with three minutes left in the half.
Knox got a tip-in to 26-23 with Rivers tying the game 26-26 with a three off a Lewis feed. A nifty baseline up and under by Lewis put Oakleaf up 28-26 still with two minutes to go as the Knights were scoring in bunches off Raider miscues.
Price ended the half with his “speed” lineup with Lewis and Coachman catching a break as the Knights kept their trap and one press in with Rivers and Jones attacking the Raider backcourt; Tommy Faucett and Falcon before the midcourt stripe.
At 1:11 to go still, 30-26 Oakleaf, Knox followed up a Jones drive to 34-28 at halftime.
“We hit our shots and keep our defense; eight threes tonight, and we have good chance to win,” said Price. “Our district is supertough and we need to have the bench like tonight able to come in and keep pace.”
Oakleaf continued their attack to 44-35 at the third quarter with Orange Park stymied by the Knights’ speed on the court.
“We got seven guys averaging 5-9 points per game with no one in double figures,” said Price. “When stuff isn’t going right, to have the ability to throw in fresh legs is valuable. We’ll need that type of second half we had tonight to go deep in the playoffs.”
Oakleaf pushed to 52-37 in the fourth quarter behind senior forward Josh Stein coming off the bench a powering up a shot.