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Knights go toe-to-toe with Sharks

Region: OHS to Gainesville, Thurs., Feb. 15

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

PONTE VEDRA - Oakleaf High guard Aaron Rivers opened the scoring of the district 3-6A championship game at the very loud Ponte Vedra High gym and Jelani Wright hit three straight threes to end the …

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Knights go toe-to-toe with Sharks

Region: OHS to Gainesville, Thurs., Feb. 15


Posted

PONTE VEDRA - Oakleaf High guard Aaron Rivers opened the scoring of the district 3-6A championship game at the very loud Ponte Vedra High gym and Jelani Wright hit three straight threes to end the first half, but the theatrics went cold in the third period as the Sharks snake-bit Oakleaf with their own three-point prowess to win a classic 79-73 final Saturday night.

"In the middle part of the third quarter, we had a matchup issue and they got inside getting some layups," said Oakleaf High coach Jason Price, who turned the tables on Ponte Vedra in last year's final with a 48-47 thriller. "Bottom line is we get to the state playoffs and last year, they went to the state final (Class 6A) from this game. Maybe, we will get that shot."
After last year's thriller, Oakleaf (19-6) got bumped 47-42 by Gainesville in the Class 6A region semifinals. Oakleaf was selected as an at-large bid in the region 1-6A playoffs and will travel to Gainesville (17-11) on Thurs., Feb. 15. Ponte Vedra (20-7) will host Lincoln (18-6) in the other half of the bracket.
In the upper bracket, Ocala Forest (20-6) travels to Buchholz (17-10) and Wiregrass Ranch (24-3), the top seed, hosts Milton (20-6).
In the first half, where Oakleaf went blow by blow with the fast-moving Shark offensive weave, the Sharks got just one three-pointer in the first quarter with both teams battling in the paint to establish some inside tactical advantage as the stanza ended 15-12 for Ponte Vedra with senior guard Sam Ritchie canning the lone three-pointer.
In the second period. Wright got hot from outside the circle with a first three to open the second quarter and three straight in the final three minutes to put Oakleaf at 32-32 at the whistle. Ponte Vedra stalled near the three-minute mark to let Oakleaf creep closer and even take a short 32-26 lead at the two-minute mark, but Ponte Vedra answered with their back-to-back threes from Ritchie and sophomore Ryan Speace for the tie.
After the half, Rivers opened with a steal and layup to hopefully jump-start the Knights' attack with both teams cold from the perimeter but inside games from Oakleaf's twin shooters; Travis Knox, Jr., and Austin Davenport answering the same attack from Ponte Vedra's Maddox Palmer and Track Westercamp to keep the game at a two or three point gap before Ponte Vedra's lefty forward Westercamp sunk a three to a 46-42 lead at 2:46 that was followed by a 10-4 run by the Sharks to the quarter's end. Westercamp hit a second three that ignited the Shark fan base, but Rivers quickly squelched the excitement with a three at the buzzer to 58-47.
With Ponte Vedra attempting to slow the game to the final whistle, Oakleaf got as close as 71-63 with threes from Rivers and Knox with about a minute on the clock.
With the game turning into a frenzied blur of bodies flying up and down the court; Ponte Vedra was satisfied with free throws, Oakleaf surged a bit with Joseph Dorvilus and Rivers hitting threes, but Ponte Vedra held to the 79-73 final.

District finishes

District 3-6A
Fleming Island over Orange Park 55-53, Oakleaf over Fletcher 58-56
Semifinals: Ponte Vedra over Fleming Island 72-52, Oakleaf over Nease 53-45
Ponte Vedra over Oakleaf 79-73

District 3-2A
St. Johns Country Day School over Christ's Church Academy 68-45
Semifinal: University Christian over SJCDS 76-35; Impact Christian over St. Joseph Academy 76-34
Final: Impact over University Christian 59-54

District 4-4A
North Marion over Keystone Heights 77-63
Final: Palatka over North Marion 72-54

District 2-5A
Middleburg over Baker County 59-57; Clay over Ridgeview 66-22
Semifinals: Rickards over MHS 57-33; Columbia over Clay 65-34
Final: Rickards over Columbia 49-33