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Oakleaf stymied by Crusaders

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 1/26/23

JACKSONVILLE - Oakleaf High’s girls basketball team traveled into the den of the probable best team in north Florida (albeit Oakleaf could claim such as well) and came away slowed down and battered …

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Oakleaf stymied by Crusaders


JACKSONVILLE - Oakleaf High’s girls basketball team traveled into the den of the probable best team in north Florida (albeit Oakleaf could claim such as well) and came away slowed down and battered as the Bishop Kenny shutdown defense smacked a 57-44 loss on the Knights despite 29 points from Knights point guard Kaylah Turner.

Bishop Kenny, 22-1 and ranked fifth in the state of Florida by www.MaxPreps.com; No. 1 in Class 4A, extended their winning streak to 18 games while Oakleaf, ranked 24th state wide; fourth in Class 6A, fell to 20-2.

From the outset, with Bishop Kenny’s defense, their mainstay, bumping up against Oakleaf’s high-flying steal and deal offense, Oakleaf fans got treated to a Turner highlight reel while injuries to the second and third of the “Three Amigas;” Kamiya Jones and Fantasia James. Bishop Kenny handled Oakleaf’s extended man-to-man defense with a motion offense that spread the floor, relying on screens away from the ball and occasional drives to the basket.

“They are going to make four or five passes and make you play defense for more than 10 seconds,” said Oakleaf head coach Fred Cole. “That is hard to do.”

With no one from Oakleaf in the lane, cutters had open paths to the goal and there was no one to stop dribble penetration. Fifteen of the Crusaders, 19 field goals were lay-ups.

The Crusaders also enjoyed a height advantage. Their starting line-up features four players who stand at least 5’8”, including the 6’1” Clare Coyle and the 6’ Sydney Roundtree, while four of Oakleaf’s starters are 5’5” or shorter. Bishop Kenny out rebounded the Knights 29-20. Coyle scored six of her team-high 19 points on put-backs off of offensive rebounds.

Oakleaf, ranked 19th in Florida by MaxPreps and entering the game on an 18-game winning streak, started the game by forcing turnovers on three of the Crusaders, first five possessions, allowing the Knights to take a 4-0 lead. But Bishop Kenny quickly adjusted to the speed of the game, and seized control with a 14-2 run over the final four minutes of the first quarter and the first minute of the second quarter to go ahead 14-6. From that point, the Crusaders were never seriously threatened.

Three-pointers by the Knights Turner, Trista Brown and Fantasia James kept Oakleaf within striking distance, but Coyle’s nine second-quarter points sent the hosts to the intermission with a 28-17 lead.

Oakleaf started the second half with full-court man-to-man pressure, forcing four Crusaders turnovers in the first four minutes of the third quarter. But other than Turner, the Knights had difficulty finding open shots, scoring only 11 points in the third quarter that ended with Bishop Kenny maintaining a 38-28 advantage.

“It is hard to contain Turner and James, but our help defenders did a great job of filling the gaps in the lane,” said Bishop Kenny head coach Will Mayer. “The other big thing was limiting them [Oakleaf] to one shot.”

After Coyle extended the Crusaders lead to 44-29 with 4:53 remaining on a drive to the hoop, Turner did her best to lead an Oakleaf coemback. The 5’5” senior, who is committed to play for Alabama A&M next fall, scored 15 points over the next four minutes, cutting the Knights deficit to 51-44 with 51 seconds left.

“She is our little mighty mite,” Cole said of Turner, who displayed her versatility with two drives to the goal, a pull-up jump shot and three baskets from beyond the arc. “She is our heart and soul, and she never stops.”

Bishop Kenny’s Sophia Rueppell, a Kennesaw State commitment, and Riley Talbert combined to covert six of six free throws for the final margin.

Cole was not discouraged by the loss, which drops the Knights’ record to 19-2.

“Iron sharpens iron,†he said. “They are definitely the best team we have played all year, and I scheduled this game at this time for a reason. I don’t want to go into Districts playing teams that are not very good.â€

Oakleaf’s James, a Florida International commit who averages more than 20 points per game, hurt her thumb late in the first half and scored just one of her eight points in the second half. The Knights faced Tallahassee Leon on January 21 and are scheduled to play at Andrew Jackson on Thursday, January 26.

Rueppell finished with 16 points and sophomore Reese Mayer had 10 for Bishop Kenny, which improved to 21-1.