JACKSONVILLE - A steal of an inbounds pass by guard Geniyah Durante that turned into two more free throws was enough to stymie a five point swing by Nease High and give the Oakleaf High Lady Knights basketball team a 70-65 district 1-7A tournament win for Oakleaf coach Frank Jenkins.
"We are not going to play a pretty game," said Jenkins, who has planned this season as his final for coaching basketball in north Florida after a 40 year career. "We fight and fight and claw and claw. That's what we do."
Against Nease just two weeks ago, Jenkins pulled out a 41-28 win over Nease High's 2019 National Girls Basketball Coach of the Year Sherri Anthony at Nease that snapped a 49 game home win streak. Anthony's resume includes a state title (1999), nine district titles, eight Sweet Sixteen wins and two Elite Eight wins as well as a state runnerup finish last year; 43-40 to Miami Dillard.
"Now, we have to duplicate it tomorrow only a little bit better," said Jenkins, 16-10, who next faces Flagler Palm Coast in the district semifinals. "Flagler Palm Coast is huge."
Jenkins, wno came to Oakleaf High School 10 years ago when the doors were opened after a stellar 19-year tenure at Wolfson High in Jacksonville, said jokingly that the youthful vigor of his young Oakleaf team; led by freshman Kaylah Turner's 16 points per game and freshman Fantasia James' 10 points per game would not be enough to pursuade him to stay for one more season.
"Forty years is enough," said Jenkins.
After falling behind 37-33 at the halftime break with Nease converting a handful of steals to layups, Jenkins directed a second half of hockey-like line changes to keep the pace very high Nease shooting guard Stephanie Manherz (13 points per game) and 6'-0" center Cecilia Molis, who had a decided height advantage to battle Oakleaf senior center Dejah Oden.
"We don't have size, but we just keep going up and down the court and going after loose balls," said Jenkins. "Dejah did as good as anyone against their very good center."
In the second half, Nease was able to inch away from the start with Oakleaf clawing back to tie at 43-43 with Durante converting half court steals to layups on top of James hitting a jumper at the behest of Jenkins yelling, "Shoot, Shoot."
Nease attempted to sneak away late in the third, but Durante struck with a three pointer that tied the game at 50-50 just before the end of the stanza with Nease upping to 52-50.
James popped off three straight buckets to keep the game at 56-56 before Durante stepped up and back and floated a go-ahead jumper at 61-60 with 2:27 to go.
Another Durante missed shot, offensive rebound, layup pushed Oakleaf up 63-60.
A double team trap foul between Turner and Martina Ramsey gave Nease a free throw with Oden falling with a rebound giving Molis a free layup and Nease a 66-65 gap before Durante made her steals and free throws to finish the game, 70-65.