JACKSONVILLE BEACH - Fleming Island High basketball’s route to the Final Four a couple years ago started with a loss in the district championship game, so Friday’s 60-50 loss to Fletcher in the …
JACKSONVILLE BEACH - Fleming Island High basketball’s route to the Final Four a couple years ago started with a loss in the district championship game, so Friday’s 60-50 loss to Fletcher in the district 3-6A championship game may be a prelude to a strong finish.
“We didn’t come ready to play tonight” said Fleming Island Head Coach Traavis Chandler.
Just 38 days ago, Fleming Island beat Fletcher by two points ina nailbiter and that may have singed the Senator bench a bit as Fletcher rifled to a 13-0 opening run in the first quarter before Blake Robinson and Ahman Greenidge scored buckets to get the game to 13-4.
“I hope we learn from this,” said Chandler. “We just have to do a better job of preparing… One thing I can say is two years ago we lost the District title and then went on to the Final Four, so we’re not too worried about it. We just want to prepare and get back.”
After getting rocked in the first quarter, Chandler used some time outs and swapped some players to get some synergy going, and it worked.
On the court, Fletcher threw the ball out of bounds twice in the last two minutes before half, as the Golden Eagles tightened their defense. As the teams hit the lockers, Fletcher still led, but now we had a game, 26-21.
The third quarter saw Antoine Sandy help his team with a pair of free throws, then used a Quantavion Little steal and pass back to Sandy to close the gap to four, 34-30. Blake Robinson played the bandit with a steal, lay-up for two, and drew a foul to get the score to 38-33, then a pair of free throws with 1:35 left to bring it to 38-37. At the end of three, the intensity ratcheted up, 42-39.
“They just have to focus and knock down shots,” said Chandler.
In the fourth, it was showing the Golden Eagles were running out of gas. Shots were bouncing off the backboard, nowhere near the rim. Free throws hit the front of the rim and bounced away, recovered by the Senators, and cashed in for points.
“We had guys just throwing shots up instead of shooting shots and that’s a difference,” commented Chandler.
Fleming Island drew within one again, 42-41 with 7:08 to play.
With a Senator 3-pointer to open it up 45-41, the fall began. The Senators drew energy from the crowd that Chandler tried breaking with time outs. The Golden Eagle battery low light would not shut off and the Senators pushed harder, 53-44 with 2:53 to play. Fleming Island needed points and tried all they could from the outside, but only hit three 3-pointers all night.
“Part of this is confidence. They have to get extra shots in after practice. We know who comes early and leaves late. If you believe you will make it, you will. Confidence- confidence,” said Chandler.
The rebounds off the 3-attempts were won by Fletcher, who cashed it in on the other end.
At 57-48, with 1:05 left to play, Chandler pulled the trigger on intentional fouls to regain possession, but on the night Fletcher went 65 percent from the line, 9 of 15 in the fourth quarter alone, adding to their lead, 58-48 with :42 left, then 60-50 with :27 seconds left. Knowing 10 points were too much to regain after the throw in, the Senators spread out, passed around and closed out the game.
“Fletcher earned this tonight,” said Chandler. “They deserve it. We have a lot of first year Varsity players, so we will just learn from this and be ready.”
Fleming Island will have to travel Thursday night and face Forest High in Ocala as they will need to claw their way back in and put the issues in the rear view.