Raiders drop first game; Eagles make comeback

Oakleaf lurking as upset-maker

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 1/5/22

SAVANNAH - Fleming Island basketball has regrouped after a first-loss in their Christmas basketball championship game on December 23 with a quick trip to Savannah and a little team bonding.

“We …

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Raiders drop first game; Eagles make comeback

Oakleaf lurking as upset-maker

Posted

SAVANNAH - Fleming Island basketball has regrouped after a first-loss in their Christmas basketball championship game on December 23 with a quick trip to Savannah and a little team bonding.

“We traveled without a few key players on vacation with family and the team responded well,” said Fleming Island coach Traavis Chandler, at 15-1 and ranked number one in Class 6A. “We started slow, but came around and the two games gave some of our young guys a feeling of that they can step up when we need them.”

The Golden Eagles road-tripped to wins of 60-41 and 53-48 in Savannah with a home showdown with a hot Fletcher High team set for Wed., Jan. 5. Fletcher, 10-3, brings a three-game win streak (71-67 Palatka, 8-3, 15th in 4A ) to the Fleming Island gym with intentions of getting a possible look-see on a region playoff contest in the future.

“Fletcher is definitely a possible region playoff game and they have a great wing man in 6’-6” Lajae Jones who we saw score 36 points in our Christmas Tournament,” said Chandler. “We hope to be a full roster for that game.”

Fleming Island is still without speedy point guard Bennie McDuffie who is unavailable amidst an “anonymous” FHSAA inspection (Note: Anonymous?).

“I have heard from our principal that an answer may be coming today (Mon., Dec. 3),” said Chandler. “The team has played strong without him, but it’s in the back of their mind that he is not there. Gavin Reyes has played big to push the team like Bennie did.”

Fleming Island (15-1, first in 6A) leads district 3-6A while Fletcher (10th in 6A) sits atop district 4-6A. Ponte Vedra, 11-2, is in Fleming Island’s 3-6A lineup at fifth in 6A.

Upcoming, Fleming Island has a dangerous double in Oakleaf and Clay in back-to-back home games with Orange Park (11-0 at Mon., Jan. 3) on January 27 and a rematch of Andrew Jackson on Thurs., Feb. 3. In between Clay and Orange Park is a road game at St. Augustine (9-5).

Fleming Island coach Traavis Chandler invites his former team, Miami Norland, into towon to end the season on Sat., Feb. 5 before districts.

Against New Hampstead (4A, 5-5 team) Antoine Sandy punched in with 15 points with Ahman Greenidge adding 13 as the Golden Eagle attack of McDuffie slicing the midcourt and senior shooter Colton Zapp firing away from three-point land has morphed to a power inside game with Sandy, Greenidge and junior Ethan Williams powering the boards.

Sandy workhorsed the game with seven rebounds, two steals and three assists to offset the loss of McDuffie’s skillset. Greenidge was equally dominant in the paint with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals down low. Sandy and Greenidge also cranked up five blocked shots; two and three apiece on the defensive side.

Zapp led assists with five dishes on the night.

In their second Showdown in Savannah game, against the Johnson High Atomsmashers, Fleming Island won 53-48 with Zapp and Greenidge both hitting for 16 and Sandy adding 10 points. Zapp hit four threes.

“The first game, he was off, but he’s a quality player that can control a game if he is on,” said Chandler. “Without our other guys in Savannah, he worked hard with rebounds, steals, assists until his shooting game came alive.”

Greenidge, with three blocked shots, dominated the boards with 13 rebounds with Zapp snaring 10.

On the other end of the county, Orange Park had a sluggish first half in a Monday season reopener against a sharp-shooting Providence team (8-3, 4th in 4A) and could only close to 48-44 with less than a minute left in the game to lose their first of the season, 51-44.

“We came out slow and they were on with their shots,” said Orange Park coach Derek Kurnitsky, who traveled to Providence as the top Class 5A team in Maxpreps rankings. “We showed some good energy in the second half and final minutes, but it was too late. We’ll work on the mistakes, but have to refocus on a tough Ed White team and Oakleaf on Friday.”

The Raiders fell behind 28-15 in the first half.

Oakleaf, 8-7, returns to the gym with a three game win streak as well with tournament wins in Palatka’s Jarvis Williams invite; a 72-45 over North Fort Myers, a 71-44 win over Matanzas and a 52-33 win over Williston as the Knights exploded for points behind guard David Compere; games of 22, 14, and 25 with Sean Jones hitting for 21 against Matanzas. Cameron Coachman had banner day atainst North Fort Myers with 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

One key player, Dylan Lewis (toe injury), will be a strong addition to the Knights’ lineup closer to districts and coach Jason Price anticipates a surge in play by his squad.

“We’ve played 15 games before the Christmas break; that’s a lot,” said Price. “David Compere is coming out as one of the best players in the area. Over the last four or five games, other guys have stepped up; Sean Jones with 23 and Cameron Coachman with strong play under the boards with a couple of nice dunks. Dylan is a complete player as a 6’-3” ballhandler, passer and under the boards.”

On the defensive front, senior center Keyshaun Riley has been dominating the rebounds with one game the school record held by Chantz Williams with 17 grabs in one game. Riley has had games of 17, 15 and 15 rebounds in a three-game stretch.

“He’s just a steady strong player,” said Price. “At 6’-2”, he gives us the toughness and emotion in the paint. He is our energy guy.”

Oakleaf returns with First Coast opener (2-10) but then starts a gauntlet of Orange Park, Bartram Trail, Palatka and Fleming Island with Orange Park a second time on January 21 followed by nemesis Creekside (8-3), the district 1-7A leader. The entire district 1-7A lineup is tightly bunched with wins and losses; Bartram Trail 6-6, Mandarin 6-7, Oakleaf 8-7 and Sandalwood 7-6 making the upcoming district tournament to be one of the toughest to get out of without a battle.

“Right now, we are the two seed behind Creekside and we get them in a game later,” said Price. “We have not seen Mandarin this season. Everyone has six or so wins and we are playing very competitive ball. I like the way we are looking.”

The Orange Park clash with Oakleaf, Fri., Jan. 7 could be one of the more exciting games in recent rivalry as the Knights fast-paced attack counters well with the Josiah Sabino/Thomas Faucett duo for coach Derek Kurnitsky. Oakleaf also plays No. 1 ranked Fleming Island (6A) January 19.

“Any time you get to play high ranking teams (OPHS ranked to five Class 5A), it’s a springboard for the season,” said Price. “The playoff system is based on strength of schedules so you have to play good teams and Orange Park is very good. It’s good that we don’t have to leave the county to find quality opponents.”

Add a little Oakleaf “Dungeon” fanfare and the game is a don’t miss game for basketball fans.

Clay High’s boys finished third at their Christmas Tournament and return as a contender at 6-4 in their district 3-5A ranks, but the Blue Devils are chasing Orange Park at the top. Ridgeview (6=8) and Middleburg (5-7) have sparked some good games and could cause an upset or two along the way with Westside at 4-7. Clay has upcoming district games with Middleburg and Ridgeview, but no Orange Park and Fleming Island hosts Clay on January 21.

Middleburg hosted their own three-day tournament and got a win over Bell (57-53) and close losses to St. Augustine (49-44) and Tocoi Creek (54-45). The Broncos, who lost to Tocoi in the third place game, were led by senior Malachi Flowers who holds a 16.3 points per game average with Aiden Farber cashing in at 11 points per game. The Flowers/Farber duo are top rebounders with Wyatt Underwood muscling under boards as well. Greg Holland was named All-Tournament for the Broncos.

Ridgeview turned a corner with four wins at the Baker County Holiday Tournament with a 72-60 win over Madison County in their final. The Panthers beat Baker County (59-49), Hope Christian (67-59) and Baker County (71-63 in overtime) as coach Jerome Clyburn has garnered some momentum for a run at his alma mater Orange Park in district play. Jayden Paz and Ed Whipple have fueled the Panther offense with Pax hitting for 25 (5 3Ptrs) against Madison with Whipple adding 18. Ezarious Wilson had 14 points and 17 rebounds also. Kolton Whitaker drained four three pointers for the Panthers.

Against Baker County, Clyburn got double digit scoring from four players; Wilson 18, Jarren Rosier 15, Whipple 13 and Pax 10. Wilson snared 16 rebounds with Whipple getting 12.

Against a 7-4 Hope Christian squad, Clyburn again spread the scoring with four in double digits; Paz 13 (3 3-Ptrs), Wilson and Rosier 12 and Whitaker 11.

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