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Raiders flex a bit on top-ranked Providence

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 1/18/23

ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High basketball coach Derek Kurnitsky and Orange Park High Athletic Director Destiny Brightman can both take a bow for staging one of the more exciting basketball events in …

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Raiders flex a bit on top-ranked Providence


ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High basketball coach Derek Kurnitsky and Orange Park High Athletic Director Destiny Brightman can both take a bow for staging one of the more exciting basketball events in recent RaiderDome history as the final game of seven contests on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day capped a festival of top-notched hoops action on Monday.

“We not only wanted to showcase our gymnasium and facility, but also wanted to bring in top talent to play against each other in a festival of basketball,” said Brightman. “I think we got what we wanted. What a day!!”

Orange Park’s girls basketball, in the penultimate game, won a 75-40 match against Leon to start the night’s final contests. In the final contest of the night, Orange Park High’s boys team versus the Class 3A top-ranked Providence Stallions, ranked fifth all classes in Florida at 18-1, Kurnitsky got as good an effort as he could ask for on his hometown court.

“We played real good against team like them, Iron sharpens Iron, we don’t duck anybody,” said Kurnitsky, 13-7 now, who saw his Raiders fight to a 47-40 loss. “We came down at the end and made some mistakes that were costly against a team like Providence.”

From the start, Providence looked to show off their top rankings with a quick 5-0 lead that caused Kurnitsky to issue a quick timeout.

“Just told them to settle down and play our game,” said Kurnitsky. “They were a little too hyped up.”

Orange Park moved to a more deliberate attack with swing passes trying to find an opening in the Providence defense.

Near the end of the first quarter, the score was 24-22 as the Raiders’ slowdown seemed effective.

Providence answered with a series of three pointers to stretch their lead to just 35-31 as the Raider defense stayed on the attack from midcourt with a Faucett three pointer at the halftime buzzer.

“You can’t duplicate that kind of situation in a practice,” said Kurnitsky. “To set up a three point final shot of the half and nail it against a team like Providence is a great confidence booster going into the lockers.”

In the third quarter, Providence opened with a three pointer to squelch any Raider thoughts of a fast second half start.

Ball catching miscues by the Raiders caused Kurnitsky to opine loudly “God gave you two hands for a reason” as the Raiders struggled to keep pace as Providence moved to a 29-22 lead.

Near the end of the third, down 35-28, Achieve Triggs hit his own buzzer beater to put the Raiders into the fourth quarter down just 35-31.

Both teams slowed their games to just a 39-33 game with half the fourth quarter gone with Providence issuing a half court pressure defense.

Providence pushed to 45-33 lead with a set of three pointers to open a gap Orange Park could not close.

Orange Park returns to the RaiderDome for a three-set of games with Oakleaf coming for a Saturday night special on Sat., Jan. 21. Oakleaf (16-1) lost a 58-53 overtime game to Providence in tournament play on December 9 and has rattled off 11 straight wins to bring a 16-1 record to the RaiderDome.

In one other game last week, Ridgeview improved to 6-13 with a 66-54 win over Middleburg while St. Johns Country Day School has a three game win streak after a 53-52 win over Covenant School of Jacksonville on Friday.

Fleming Island, 11-6, beat Orange Park on January 12, but lost to Palm Beach Lakes on Sat., Jan. 14 63-39. Fleming Island has a tough week coming with Riverside, Clay and Providence.