ORANGE PARK - Two days after taking down unbeaten Oakleaf High, the Orange Park High Lady Raiders basketball team found that two unbeatens in a row is a tough row to hoe.
The undefeated Oakleaf Lady Knights hosted the one-loss Orange Park Lady Raiders in a phenomenal, early season, grind-it-out in the trenches type of basketball game on Tues., Dec. 3 where the score was tied numerous times. Going into the dressing room at the half, the ladies had it tied at 29-29.
The second half was more of the same as the crowd was treated to an Ali-Frazier type punch-for-punch volley.
“I told my girls, let them keep flying around, we’re going to keep our cool and that is how we are going to win this” said Raider Head Coach Frederick Cole. “That’s the good thing about having a veteran team. They trust me. the game was getting chippy. We like to play physical and they do as well. I just wanted them to keep their head in it and let Oakleaf fly around.”
It wasn’t until very late in the fourth quarter when Orange Park out-performed Oakleaf on defense, came down with several boards and steals to open up the lead. In the end, the Raiders handed the Knights their first loss of the season 69-56.
In the first half, Oakleaf High's Chancelor Lee was strong inside for the Knights, claiming her share of blocks and breaking up drives. Orange Park's Nia Brown was equally a pain in the Knights side as she was one of the Raiders leaders inside the paint. Brown was also head of the class with 12 first half points. Fantasia James racked up 11 first half points to lead the Knights.
“We’re just not a very deep team and when we get in foul trouble, it limits what we can do” said Knights Head Coach Frank Jenkins. “We made some costly turnovers, fought back but just weren’t able to sustain it.”
Orange Park guard Macie Faucett hit a timely three pointer and two layups give the Raiders the fourth quarter lead.
Two days later, University Christian came to the Raiderdome with an unblemished record, 5-0, and proved to be up to their task with a resounding 56-44 win on Thurs., Dec. 5.
Fred Cole has said this year's goal is to challenge the girls with a strong schedule.
So far, with the likes of Providence, Ribault and Nease in the first two weeks of the season, Coles' schedule has not let up with Bishop Kenny (4-4 with recent win over Middleburg) and Robert E. Lee (6-2); plus a Christmas tournament at Bishop Moore in Orlando on tap.
Against University Christian, Orange Park did open with a quick 7-0 lead off strong rebounding followups from Sha'Mia Capers and Nia Brown before University Christians took a breath.
The Lady Raiders kept the pressure high and pushed to an 11-6 first quarter gap with Brown and guard Macie Faucett keeping the Christians at bay before University found the keys to their car and pushed ahead to 16-11 in a span of just the first two minutes of the second quarter.
From there, University Christian limited the Lady Raiders to just five and nine points in the second and third periods en route to the 56-44 win. Orange Park also had three players; Brown, Capers and Faucett, foul out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Top scorers were Faucett with 16 and Nayeli Williams and Brown both with 12 points.