FLEMING ISLAND - After a weekend loss to 6A-Melbourne, a former 8A powerhouse, the Fleming Island High basketball team needed a win.
Unfortunately, Bolles visiting Fleming Island High School did not fill the need, but instead showed more vulnerability to the Golden Eagles' plight to repeat as a Final Four finisher.
After giving up a fourth quarter lead against Melbourne on Saturday that ended with a 65-60 loss, Fleming Island again had a late lead just three days later; this time on the Bolles Bulldogs (5-1), but failed to finish as the Bulldogs muscled their way into the Eagle’s Nest and showed they had a formidable bite to that bark with a 58-55 win off a last second three pointer.
The two powerhouses went at it, toe-to-toe, punch for punch, but Fleming Island couldn’t hold their four point lead in the last three minutes of play as the Bulldogs defense stole the ball on the Golden Eagles last two offensive pushes and handed the team a 58-55 home loss that identified an area the team needs to work on.
“I thought we gave a way a win tonight (vs. Bolles),” said Fleming Island Head Coach Traavis Chandler. “We were up and they were trying to throw touchdown passes. Why? All we have to do is pull the ball out, get some time off the clock, and make them foul us.”
On the rebound, on Friday, Fleming Island took their game to rival Oakleaf High School and came home with an "athletic" 64-46 win over the Knights with a flash of Final Four fervor coming from Chandler's troops.
"If we had the same effort for the past two games, we'd be 5-0," said Chandler, 4-2 after the Oakleaf win. "A cross town rivalry like this brings out the best game of both teams."
Against Bolles, the details show where Fleming Island could have made a major difference as the team only went 44% from the line, as Bolles went 83% on free throws. Astor was the lone scorer in double figures with just 13 points as Chandler played nine players trying to find some chemistry.
“We have to make free throws; they are free points. They have to make those," said Chandler. "They have to focus in practice. That is so disappointing.”
Chandler’s solution for the three days prior to Oakleaf?
“They’ll be in silence at practice shooting free throws, whether it’s 30 minutes or an hour," said Chandler. "They are going keep working until they get it done. We have to do a better job shooting. You make those free throws and that could be the difference maker.”
Against Oakleaf, Fleming Island rifled to a 22-11 early lead with forward Jordan Miles canning two threes and a jumper off his first three shots.
From there, Fleming Island would continue the barrage with a 35-18 lead pushing to the final 64-46 score. Miles would head the scoring with 15 points with Ahman Greenidge and Sebastian Astor both adding 12 apiece. Greenridge would also top rebounds with 10 snags.
Against Bolles, the fast-pace kept up all game, but what seemed to be amiss were the interpretive, body language passes that Fleming Island showed early this season.
“I was disappointed; no game management," he said. "We have too many returning players from a Final Four team to be making those kinds of errors. Somebody has to take charge.”
At the half, the Golden Eagles held slim 34-33 lead.
After the half, the team needed some time to get going, looking up at a 41-36 deficit with Bolles holding a 16-13 scoring advantage.
By the end of the third, the Golden Eagles were down 49-47.
The final quarter was defensive heavy on both ends of the court as the teams felt each other out for three quarters and knew how to shut each other down. At 40 seconds to play; it was 55-55 with Bolles nailing a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds on the clock.
Off the ensuing timeout, the Bulldogs locked down and gave Fleming Island a half court shot thatnever even hit the backboard.
“We have a very tough schedule, so if we don’t get it together, every game is going to be like this against these tough teams," said Chandler. "With this new playoff system, we have to find a way to win the games that matter, not just the ones that come kind of easy."