ORANGE PARK - The Ridgeview High Panther Den nearly caught fire Friday night as the Panthers went from warm, to hot, to white-hot on fire as they ran through regulation play tied, tied again then won …
ORANGE PARK - The Ridgeview High Panther Den nearly caught fire Friday night as the Panthers went from warm, to hot, to white-hot on fire as they ran through regulation play tied, tied again then won a double overtime 63-57 win over Baldwin High Friday night. The win was the fourth in a row for the late-surging Panthers including a 66-65 win over Mandarin and a 54-52 win over Yulee.
“I am so glad they tied it up because late in this season, we’ve been playing some close games,” said Panthers Head Coach Jerome Clyburn, now 10-12. “I told them, we’ve been here before with the double overtime with Interlachen (74-73 win), so let’s do what we have to do to win, and they did exactly what we needed to do.”
The Panthers leaned heavily on the skills of Landon Hawkins who reached deep into his bag of tricks to help his team run through a first overtime tied, and needed a second overtime to force the visiting Baldwin Indians to make mistakes.
Baldwin would run deep into their bench that finally exhausted the Indians. Hawkins rejected the Indians several times late in the game as the Panthers poured more fuel on the fire in the second OT of this grind-it-out thriller to send the wounded Indians packing back to Baldwin, 63-57.
“This team fought the whole night, never gave an inch, and played their hearts out the entire night,” said Clyburn.
When these teams met in Baldwin back in December, it was a tied, or one point game through three quarters before Baldwin finally put the Panthers away 58-52.
On Friay, it was no different as the teams swapped the lead several times through four quarters. Hawkins broke the scoring open with one of his signature three-pointers right out of the box. As the two teams felt each other out in the first quarter, the Indians went up 11-9.
In the second quarter, the intensity dial went up a few notches as both teams became noticeably more physical and the penalties began adding up, luckily for the Panthers, much quicker for the Indians. As the Indians ran through their bench, they proved they had other weapons as they went up 25-17 with 1:30 left to the half.
After a timeout to recalibrate, the Panthers went on a 90 second tear as the defense built a wall under the Indian net, and the offense came alive just before the teams headed to the lockers, 25-21. While still down, the Panthers found the Indians chink in the armor. That vulnerability would be the key to winning.
“At the half, my seniors stopped me and said, you don’t have to say a thing, we got this coach,” said Clyburn. “I said alright, then watched them talk about what adjustments they needed to make. That’s the leadership I’m looking for from my team.”
The third and most of the fourth found both teams keeping the lead to no more than two points. The Panthers, finding the three-pointers not working well, went to driving the lane and finding the needed points inside.
With 1:12 left in regulation, Grant Weiskircher tied the game at 46-46 with a jumper from the field. Baldwin was fouled and missed both free throws with :24 seconds left.
The Panthers had one last attempt with a three-pointer that missed. Baldwin came down with it, drove, and were blocked by Hawkins, sending the game into the first overtime.
At the end of regulation, Clyburn was ecstatic, allowing his emotions to take over, screaming his praise for his team to get another life into the overtime. “I was telling them how proud I was of them- they held each other accountable. I was so proud they fought back and tied this up.” That emotion carried right back onto the court.
In the first OT, it was free throws and steals energizing the crowd. Both teams would tie it back up time and again as the crowd held their breath. As hard as they tried, neither team could open a gap.
With Baldwin in control as the clock had less than 10 seconds, they attempted to set up a shot and threw the ball out of bounds with 1.7 clicks left. The Panthers tried a heave-ho, but the ball went nowhere near the rim- on to OT2.
“I’m tired of going to overtime. You guys scare me,” said Clyburn to his team.
The reaction; his Seniors looked at him and said “We got this coach, we got you too.”
With Baldwin already losing one of their starters to fouls, the Panthers changed tactics to a physical drive the lane and put the ball up under the hoop. That chink in the armor they found earlier was getting physical inside and forcing the Indians to foul. Nicholas Gallego started the trend as he drove hard down the right side of the key, nailed a perfect layup, then drew a foul and drained a free throw putting his team up 56-53 at 3:32. Baldwin would go to the line and hit a bonus free throws to bring it to 56-55.
On the next offensive drive, Eddie Whipple had his team clear the key so he could get huge inside drive, hitting to go up 58-55 with 2:16 to play.
On the return, as Baldwin went to the goal, Hawkins became white hot blocking cleanly, regaining control, clearing the ball, and begin a passing clinic, frustrating the Indians. As the clock drained, the Indians stole the ball and drove down, only to get blocked again by Hawkins. With only :24 clicks left, it was Nicholas Gallego to the line for two, hitting nothing but net, 60-57.
On the rebound, frustrated and deep into their bench, Baldwin would again throw the ball out of bounds with :23.4 left to play. With only 12.9 left, Baldwin finally went to intentional fouls to try anything to get the ball back. The plan backfired as Gallego went to the line and hit the first shot, 61-57. The second shot missed, but Joshua Tirado came down with the rebound, rifled the ball out to Hawkins, who hit for another two just before time expired, 63-57.