Raiders still undefeated

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 12/29/21

FLEMING ISLAND - With a prophetic front page sports story touting the possibility of a January 27 showdown of two unbeaten boys basketball teams; Orange Park and Fleming Island, 6A-Fleming Island got …

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Raiders still undefeated

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND - With a prophetic front page sports story touting the possibility of a January 27 showdown of two unbeaten boys basketball teams; Orange Park and Fleming Island, 6A-Fleming Island got stung by the infamous Clay Today jinx with their first loss of the season; a 67-52 loss to 4A-Andrew Jackson in the Fleming Island “Battle on the Island” Christmas tournament championship game on Thurs., Dec. 23. Fleming Island fell to 13-1 while Andrew Jackson, ranked sixth in Class 4A, improved to 9-2. Fleming Island had been ranked number one in Class 6A prior to the tournament with their record of 11-0.

“We came out pretty sluggish and the coaches wanted to see if the team would respond in the third period,” said Fleming Island coach Traavis Chandler, who watched Andrew Jackson sink 12 straight points to open the third period. “Sometimes a game like this, with bigger, athletic guys, can be a learning experience. Our games in Savannah (Showdown in Savannah, Dec. 28-29) will be a test to our resilience.”

Ironically, at the Clay High Christmas Tournament, unbeaten Martin County, 9-0, was the number two Class 6A team prior to that tournament title over Wolfson High.

Orange Park had been at number one in Class 5A at 10-0 and is now 11-0 with a road win over Franklin County on December 20.

“I don’t know about being undefeated in January because we have some pretty good teams on the schedule including Andrew Jackson on January 8,” said Orange Park coach Derek Kurnitsky. “I kind of like being the only undefeated team in the county and we recently had a number one ranking in Class 5A, but the season is only halfway through. There is a lot of basketball still to go and Fleming Island is on January 27 in their gym.”

At Fleming Island, the Golden Eagles capped off their pre-holiday break with road wins over Impact Christian and Auburndale with tournament wins over Tampa Durant (87-67, 18 Pts Colton Zapp) and Seminole (83-58, 22 Pts Ahman Greenidge) in the opening rounds of the Battle on the Island tournament. Andrew Jackson’s two losses; Potter’s House and Riverside (twice lost to Fleming Island in last two weeks), were followed by wins over Auburndale and Eleanor McMain of New Orleans, a 9-2, 4A team ranked third in Louisiana, in the Battle on the Island; a 44-42 match in the semifinal.

Against Jackson, Fleming Island’s high-octane offense got rattled with a 16-14 lead after the first quarter evaporated with a 17-1 scoring run by Jackson before an Ahman Greenidge free throw scored the game 31-18. Fleming Island reversed the trend with their own scoring run; a 10-4 blitz off threes by Bennie McDuffie and Colton Zapp, to go to the lockers down 35-28.

“We let the game get away and we had to fight back,” said Chandler. “We didn’t have to do that too many times up to that point.”

Fleming Island could not close the gap with the third quarter going to 52-36 for Jackson.

Fleming Island returns to tough tournament action on Tues., Dec. 28 with a trip to the Showdown in Savannah to face New Hampstead High (4A, 3-3) and Johnson High (3A, 4-4) before returning home to face Fletcher, First Coast, Oakleaf and Clay.

“Both teams were 20-game winners last year,” said Chandler. “We are going up a little depleted with a few guys away on vacation and one with a slight knee injury.”

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