ORANGE PARK – Middleburg High point guard Jordan Robinson scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half as Middleburg rallied from an 18 point deficit to stun host Ridgeview 58-52 in a non-district game Friday night.
The Broncos scored the first basket of the game, but the early edge was their only lead until senior Layton Veon nailed a three-pointer from the left wing with 53 seconds remaining to put the visitors ahead 54-52. Led by Robinson and center Edgardo Enriquez, Middleburg ended the game on a furious 13-2 run to claim just their third victory against 14 losses.
Robinson scored on an array of drives to the basket and running floaters and made two jumpers from beyond the arc to go along with a six for eight performance at the free throw line. The junior sank two free throws and a trey on consecutive possessions to pull the Broncos within 52-50 with 1:44 remaining.
“Jordan has developed into that guy that I trust on the court,” said Middleburg coach Travis Tipton. “He is very cerebral, and once he figured out how to handle the pressure, it did not phase him.”
Without the hustle of Enriquez, Middleburg likely would not have completed the comeback. The junior secured an offensive rebound and fed Robinson for his late three-pointer. He muscled his way to the basket on Middleburg’s next possession, drawing a foul that led to free throws. He made the first and rebounded his miss on the second. The extra possession led to Veon’s game-winner.
“Edgardo is stronger than anyone,” said Tipton. “He is relentless around the blocks.”
Enriquez finished with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Veon, Middleburg’s most accurate long range shooter, was stymied by the Panthers for most of the game, unable to even attempt a three-point shot in the face of constant pressure. But given the opportunity in the final minute, the senior came through.
“We have lost a lot of close games,” said Veon, who finished with 10 points. “It feels good to finally pull one out.”
Ridgeview opened the game with a full court press, forcing six Middleburg turnovers that the Panthers converted into points. Moses Balanga scored 10 points from the lane and Parker Whitaker made all three of his three-point attempts as Ridgeview seized a 22-13 lead by the end of the first period. When Parker converted a free throw to cap an 11-2 run to start the second quarter, it appeared the Panthers would cruise to the win. But Tipton changed the man guarding Balanga, told the Broncos to deny Parker the basketball and instituted a full court press of his own, and the Broncos changed the momentum.
“We were sharing the ball well, and then we got a little selfish,” said Ridgeview coach Jerome Clyburn. “Guys started rushing and went away from what got us the big lead.”
With Balanga on the bench with two fouls for the final 2:33 of the second quarter, Middleburg closed the half on a 13-2 run to trim the Panthers’ lead to 35-28. The Broncos forced 17 Ridgeview turnovers, including takeaways on the first six Panthers possessions of the second half. Parker, who had 16 points in the first half, did not score in the second. The Broncos held Balanga to a modest six points over the final two quarters. With their power duo shut down, the rest of the Panthers struggled to find offense. Sophomore Auggie Kingambe finished with 13 points, but the six other Panthers who played in the game combined for only one field goal and five total points.
The Broncos overcame more than just the Panthers and the deficit. The game was scheduled to have been played at Middleburg, but the discovery of bats in the Broncos’ gymnasium forced the Broncos to travel to Ridgeview.
Tipton likes the way his team is trending as they head into the St. John’s River Athletic Conference tournament.
“My kids just need confidence,” said Tipton. “They gained a lot of it tonight.”
The Broncos take on Palatka in the opening round on January 28.
Clyburn, a former assistant coach under Tipton at Middleburg, hopes that his Panthers, now 7-11, also profit from the experience.
“It is good as a learning tool,” said Clyburn. “When you have got a team down, you have got to learn how to close the deal.”
Ridgeview travels to Jacksonville Episcopal on January 29 for their next game.