ORLANDO - With two preseason games against two top Orlando area programs; including a nationally-acclaimed Class 7A champion Dr. Phillips High School, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team …
ORLANDO - With two preseason games against two top Orlando area programs; including a nationally-acclaimed Class 7A champion Dr. Phillips High School, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team looks to duplicate their Final Four run from 2018 (22-3) with a high-pressure defense and tenacious paint presence. Fleming Island was district 3-6A runnerup last year and lost in round one to Ocala Forest in the region playoffs.
“We’re playing good right now; excited about how the guys are playing together,” said Fleming Island coach Traavis Chandler, now 2-0 in regular season play. “Against Dr. Phillips, the team got a great experience to play and see what an elite team looks like. That team has guys going to Mississippi State, Kansas and the University of Florida.”
Chandler put his Golden Eagles squad up against Harmony High first, then Dr. Phillips, before opening the regular season with area power Wolfson High followed by a Jacksonville Thanksgiving Classic clash with 4A-powerhouse Tampa Catholic on Saturday at Andrew Jackson High School. Guard Bennie McDuffie had three three pointers against Harmony to lead the scoring with 15 points with power forward Antoine Sandy adding 12. Against Dr. Phillips, McDuffie led the scoring with 13 points.
“The kids responded well after the Dr. Phillips game knowing they had the loss, but that they could learn from it,” said Chandler, noting the halftime score against Dr. Phillips was 38-32. “That was a great first half against a great team. Now we have to build from that and the team showed a little more maturity against Wolfson, a pretty good win.”
The loss to Dr. Phillips, though 17 points, showed Chandler’s team what top of the list playing looks like with Dr. Phillips rostering a handful of NCAA Div. I candidates. Phillips beat Dwyer 54-46 last year for the Class 7A title.
“I was okay to be that close against a team like that,” said Chandler. “Bennie McDuffie had a great game.”
The Eagles rebounded quickly with a 70-40 dispatching of Wolfson on Tuesday followed by a 60-46 fourth quarter thrashing of Tampa Catholic at the Jackson High event. Tampa Catholic was a region 3-4A finalist with a 69-55 loss to Astronaut High. Astronaut lost in the state semifinal to Pine Crest the eventual 4A champion.
Against Tampa Catholic, Oakleaf High transfer Antoine Sandy, with a team leading 18 points against Tampa Catholic, displayed a dominant inside game presence with a handful of explosive dunks and a keen awareness of his fellow board members; Ahman Greenidge (10 rebounds, 1 blocked shot) and Demarion Valmyr (6 rebounds, 1 blocked shot) who were equally aggressive on the glass. Guard Colton Zapp added 14 with four threes. Greenidge recently committed to play at Wingate College next fall and will sign his letter of intent soon.
For Chandler, the ball handling duties fell to newcomer Bennie McDuffie, a transfer from Mandarin High, who gave up upwards of 2-4 inches on his opposition but played with fearless abandon among the forest around him. Lucas Miles had three three pointers against Wolfson to finish with 15 points.
Fleming Island stays on the road this week with a trip to Raines High followed by their first home game against Ridgeview with a Saturday night rivalry clash with Oakleaf on December 4 at Oakleaf High School.
Oakleaf did as much of a season opening gauntlet of their own with a 48-44 win over Pensacola High on Fri., Nov. 26 before dropping a 68-59 loss to Tallahassee Lincoln, also at Andrew Jackson earlier on Saturday, in their two openers. Oakleaf will need to keep the gas pedal pressed with Fletcher (6’-6”, 6”-5” underneath; 1-0, 79-41 win over Nease), ED White (6’-4”, 6’-6”, 6’-6” across the front; 0-1, 69-56 loss to Bolles) and Fleming Island all home games; Tuesday, Friday and Saturday with Nease and Sandalwood to follow.
Senior guard David Compere has been top point getter with 17 against Lincoln and 18 against Pensacola while Cameron Coachman was manning the glass with four blocks and 10 rebounds against Pensacola. Against Lincoln, Coachman added 12 points.
Orange Park, with senior Josiah Sabino recently signing with NCAA Div. I Jacksonville University, opens its season in the Raiderdome with Menendez on Tues., Nov. 30 with Yulee on December 2 and Creekside on the road on December 3 with back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 6-7, against West Nassau and ED White.
Clay High opens their season on the road twice with a Tuesday game at Englewood and a Friday game at Bolles before returning home against Gainesville on Thurs., Dec. 9. The first county contest is a December 14 game at Oakleaf.
The Blue Devils return a handful of varsity players in D’Maurion Frazier, Desiron Gantt, Jarvis Lee and Brandon Peavy.
Middleburg opened with a November 16 win over Keystone Heights, 71-50, before losses to Tocoi Creek, 44-39, and Bartram Trail, 65-42, put the Broncos at 1-2. The Broncos host Creekside on Tues., Nov. 30 with St. Johns Country Day School on Fri., Dec. 3 and Keystone Heights again on December 7.
Keystone Heights is winless, 0-3, and returns to the court on Tues., Nov. 30 against Tocoi Creek with an away trip to Oak Hall on Fri., Dec. 3.
Ridgeview opened at Fernandina Beach on Mon., Nov. 29 with Interlachen visiting Wed., Dec. 1 and an away match at Fleming Island on Thurs., Dec. 2.
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