FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High basketball coach Traavis Chandler tested his bench in a non-district contest, but nearly paid the price as a game Clay High team took advantage of the strategic move.
Fortunately, for Fleming Island, Clay could only close to three points in the fourth quarter before Chandler put in his jets to rocket to a final 63-51 win Friday night in a packed and hi-volume gymnasium at Fleming Island High School.
"I kind of wanted to put the young guys in for a chance to see them in a competitive atmosphere because one or two of them may be critical in the upcoming district and region playoffs," said Chandler, referring to a possible repeat run to the Final Four, albeit Class 6A this year. "Clay came to play hard and go for the upset and my big players did their jobs."
Fleming Island traveled to Raines High on Saturday to take on 7A-Park Vista High in their Martin Luther King Tournament and Park Vista (12-5) got the better of the effort from the previous night to win 55-54.
On Friday against Clay, with Clay High forward Dylan Griffin and guard Tre Griner able to penetrate the Fleming Island full pressure defense for layups and three pointers, the game stayed close in the early going with a 15-14 gap.
Fleming Island surged in the second quarter with Brendan Kenny, Blake Robinson and Nick Mas sinking baskets to push the Fleming Island lead to 25-15.
A three pointer from Jordan Miles and Aaron Brown increased the lead with Clay clinging on to the 36-23 deficit behind two three pointers from Griffin.
The third quarter left the gap at 49-35 Fleming Island notching up the defense for layups and Miles hitting a three pointer at the buzzer.
On the edge of disaster, Clay coach Jared Moses got threes from Jarvis Lee and D'maurion Frazier to spike a surge to 54-51 to the four minutes to go mark.
An Aaron Brown jumper was Fleming Island's first answer with Elias Martin under the backboard adding a jumper off an offensive rebounds.
"I told them go back to fundamentals and try to not get caught up in the noise of the rivalry," said Chandler.
A charge by Fleming Island guard Sebastian Astor on Lee amped up the Clay sideline, but the fervor of the game caught up to Clay with ballhandling mistakes giving Fleming Island's offense enough space to the final seven points.
Against Park Vista, with two hot shooters in senior center Erik Pratt and senior guard Chase Bergert, the Cobras snakebut the Golden Eagles battled back from a 45-38 third quarter deficit only to fall short at 53-52 with Astor fumbling a half court dribble that produced a seventh foul and two gamewinning free throws for Park Vista.
"Park Vista is a big school from south Florida with a lot of speed," said Chandler. "We will have to play well for four quarters."
Fleming Island lone lead was a 12-10 first quarter opening that grew to 24-18 before the Eagles shooting went cold for three minutes to let Park Vista lead 28-25 at the half.
In the third period, Steele Perry sliced a pass to Brown for a layup to tie the game at 30-30 with Astor following with two layups to put Fleming Island up 34-30, before a three and two layups put Park Vista back up 37-34 to the finish.
In the afternoon opener at Raines, 7A-Oakleaf (7-9) took on 5A-Rockledge (10-5), and let a 33-33 score at four minutes to go evaporate to a 41-33 loss. Markel Allums led Oakleaf with 12 points.
Oakleaf had a strong 65-50 win over Bartram Trail earlier in the week before losing 67-51 to Fleming Island after letting a 46-46 score in the fourth quarter get away. Nick Lowery led scoring against Bartram Trail with 21 with Allums adding 19 points and six assists.