ORANGE PARK - With his strong sister triple play; the Bloctons, a shooting guard now past 1,000 points and a blossoming sophomore finding the bottom of the net consistently, Ridgeview High’s …
ORANGE PARK - With his strong sister triple play; the Bloctons, a shooting guard now past 1,000 points and a blossoming sophomore finding the bottom of the net consistently, Ridgeview High’s girl's basketball has set themselves up to attack a playoff path in 2023.
“We’re still finding our way,” said Ridgeview first year coach Tyler Miller, who has the Lady Panthers at 9-3 with his three losses coming at the hands of top tier programs from Bishop Kenny (10-1, ranked 15th all Classes in Florida, fourth in 4A), unbeaten 7A-Winter Haven (6-0, 6A region semifinalist) and 7A-Mandarin in overtime (region quarterfinalist). “A lot of the girls on the team are scorers, but because of our system where everyone is involved, their averages are down a bit struggling with that dynamic.”
With the graduation of one of those “scorers”, senior Alyssa Sherman who averaged near 10 points and above for her four varsity seasons, Miller has been juggling his lineup to get the most for his dollar in his system of play.
Miller has a tournament planned over the Christmas break in Destin that features top teams from the southeast United States.
“We will play teams from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia in order to see styles different than what we see here,” said Miller. “Then we’ll get Ponte Vedra, St. Johns Country Day School, Providence (8-2) and Columbia. We’re going to up the ante on our competition to be ready for the playoffs.”
From the other side of the court facing the Ridgeview lineup, opponents have the three Blocton sisters, junior Nia, sophomore Nacoya and freshman Narissa, offering and intimidating three-faced force that almost looks like triplets on the floor.
Out wide, Miller just surpassed her 1,000 points for a career and Rayes is steadily losing her slight inhibition of being in the mix as a sophomore. Rayes has inched into a double figures scoring average with Miller giving her more encouragement to drop three-point shots.
“Nia was averaging about 17 points a game last year from her inside power position, but this year, with her sisters around her and Emma (sophomore guard Emma Rayes), she is at about 10 points per game,” said Miller. “I hope that they see the success of my approach with the wins and also with the losses where we see where we can make improvements against tougher teams. Her prowess with blocks and rebounds is still as one of the best in the area.”
Nia Blocton is snaring 11 rebounds, Nacoya is grabbing eight off the glass with junior Aniyah Campbell getting six. Miller also scraps underneath for six rebounds per game.
Miller’s lineup and scoring averages range from Miller’s 11.8 points per game with Nacoya Blocton at 10.8 points per game, Nia Blocton at 9.5 points per game and Rayes at points per game.
“Nia has become a force with a five assist per game number because teams are collapsing on her and she is great enough to find the open shooters,” said Miller. “Emma has gotten stronger as as athlete playing at the varsity level and is learning to use her legs and be set to shoot her threes.”
Miller’s quarterback, per say is senior Paetyn Miller who is riding solo as the leader of the Panther pack with Sherman gone.
“Paetyn has taken over at the point guard leadership role with Alyssa gone and has been learning how to deal with not being one of two threats in the backcourt,” said Miller. “She is definitely the one to direct traffic.”
Raiders vs. Knights: Wed., Dec. 21 clash
Orange Park’s girls basketball has seen a few bumps in the road while Oakleaf’s resurgence as a state powerhouse is becoming more imminent in 2022 as both teams are set to collide on Wed., Dec. 21 for a bit of county bragging rights in what could be one of the fastest tempo games of hoops in recent years.
Oakleaf, 10-1 and scorching the Earth with their three-prong plus one attack force of Kaylah Turner, Fantasia James, Kamiya Jones and, sophomore Trista Brown will host the equally high-flying attack of Orange Park’s Eris Lester and Piera Alexander, the quiet assassin for coach Mike Nesmith, now at 5-4 after a 24-6 record and a 5A-region final finish last year.
On stats, Oakleaf, bounced in the 7A region semifinals after a tumultuous season of team illness that halted the season for a two-week span, has an overwhelming edge in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game and assists per game with the Lady Raiders a tad up on the blocked shot stats.
Orange Park’s style is a flow off guard Eris Lester’s game; 24.3 points per game with 12.7 rebounds.
For Oakleaf, Turner is the the ringleader with 22.6 points per game and three assists, but more dagger-like, five steals per game, probably leading to breakaway layups.
Turner had turned on the jets as of late with games of 21, 27, 26, 25 and 34 points with wins over Paxon, Leon, San Jose Prep, Columbia and a thriller with Ponte Vedra. Probably because of the steal to layup dynamic, Turner scores at a 60 percent success rate.
James has also stayed in double figures with a 15.7 scoring average with 28 against Ponte Vedra.
The third prong is Jones, who when hot from three points is a gamechanger much like a slam dunk; four against Columbia, three against Leon, five against Westside.
Brown has added 10.2 points per game with 18 against Columbia and Paxon and 13 against San Jose Prep should one of the three “Amigas” needs a break.
Fleming Island humbled at Baker County
With a three game win streak in his hand, Fleming Island High girls basketball coach Mike Hayward took his Lady Golden Eagles to Baker County for a Monday contest, albeit without a couple of key roster athletes.
“It’s been a bit to get the kids to buy in because I kind of took over late in the game,” said Hayward, who coached for years at Middleburg High School with success, then joined the boys basketball staff with Fleming Island’s Traavis Chandler. “My son is playing on the varsity, but the girls needed a coach.”
Right out of the gate, Hayward’s new team, led by top scorer London Jenkins with a 21 points per game, won four of his first six games before venturing to a solid Baker County team on Mon., Dec. 19 where missing Mykayla Maddox, a burly 5’-6” power player and flag football all star could have mixed up with Baker County’s inside muscle led by senior center Iary Wyche.
Up 38-11 and stealing Fleming Island passes left and right, Baker County cruised to the win with Fleming Island lead scorer getting double teched in the second quarter and relegated to limited time.
Coming back from the holiday, Hayward will have his hands full with Bradford, coached by former Fleming Island super guard Keniyah Johnson at 6-2, Stanton at 8-1, Oakleaf at 10-1 and Orange Park at 6-4 in a season ending gauntlet.
‘Burg gets win over Keystone Heights
In a hopeful turn of season, the Middleburg High girls basketball team issued their best game of the season with a 45-16 win over Keystone Heights on December 12.
Keystone Heights, 8-3, was without lead scorer Kiley Channell and had Yasmin Bryant as lead scorer with just six point.
For Middleburg, 4-8, who charged to a 31-4 halftime lead and finished off the final two quarters with the Indians scoring single digits; 5 and 7, got top scoring from guard Desiree Hall with 15; three of five three pointers, and senior Brandy Mann with 10.
Middleburg went for two in a row with a clampdown, 23-18, win over Clay three days later.
St. Johns Country Day School improved to 4-4 with a 68-48 win over Episcopal with guard Taliah Scott hitting for 32 and Mary Kate Kent adding 20.