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Raiders, Knights storm to opener thrillers

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/30/22

ORANGE PARK - Oakleaf High basketball had it’s 6’-7” guy, Cameron Coachman, while Orange Park had their 6’-8” guy, Avorie Grayson, camped out in the paint, intimidating those that would …

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Raiders, Knights storm to opener thrillers


ORANGE PARK - Oakleaf High basketball had it’s 6’-7” guy, Cameron Coachman, while Orange Park had their 6’-8” guy, Avorie Grayson, camped out in the paint, intimidating those that would attempt to venture down the lane and the result for both teams was strong season opening wins.

“It’s nice to have a guy in the middle that the other team doesn’t want to mess with,” said Orange Park coach Derek Kurnitsky, who faced off with region semifinalist Raines High on Monday with a 57-55 win. “That last series, Raines tried to put in three layups to win but Grayson battled with their guys to keep the win for us. We played ugly, but a win is a win.”

For the Oakleaf High Knights, Coachman battered six blocked shots along the way while teammate Dylan Lewis, returning from a nagging foot injury last year, displayed his speed and prowess from the outside in with 22 points off slashes to the basket. Lewis also snared nine rebounds.

“It’s good to see Dylan back on the court and he is just doing what he does,” said Oakleaf coach Jason Price. “Cameron has made it clear that he is chasing former star Chantz Williams’ shot block record (114 shot blocks in one season) with eight blocks in a win over Westside.”

Price liked the makeup of his team with the Camden win allowing Price to give his bench some quality playing time.

“Depth is not going to be a problem this year with seven seniors that have learned a lot from a great summer and a good young group that will blossom this year,” said Price. “We had Dylan for 11 games last year and when he is in, we are very good. He’s a terrific player that can do just about everything we need on the court. He played all five positions against Camden.”

At Orange Park, the Raiders were led by point man Bryan Falcon with 16 points with Grayson adding 10, but the win came down to a three pointer from junior Archieve Triggs that tied the tight game at 40-40 with 20 seconds left in the third to spark the Raiders bench.

In the fourth, Falcon turned a midcourt steal into a three pointer to put the Raiders up 47-44 at 5:53 with Kevin Monterola also stealing to a layup to put the score at 49-44.

“In my nine years here, I have had a Monterola on my team each year,” said Kurnitsky.

Raines kept chipping away at the Raider lead with Monterola again getting a steal to layup to push the score to 51-46.

Raines hit a three to 51-49 with Grayson answering with a left hander off a feed from Triggs to go to 53-49. Grayson got hit with his fourth personal foul to force Kurnitsky to sit him with two minutes to go as free throws got Raines as close as 53-51.

“Our game plan at the end was to throw them the ball and see if we could get the game closer,” joked Kurnitsky.

Triggs later landed a strong drive to the basket to put Orange Park up 57-51 with 1:08 on the clock. Triggs also blocked a Raines shot that led to a missed dunk on a breakaway from Sherrard Adams.

Raines got to the 57-55 score, but could not convert three shots under the basket as the buzzer sounded.

Around the county, St. Johns Country Day School opened with a loss to Eagle’s View then responded with wins over Covenant School of Jacksonville (62-28) and Middleburg (64-47) for coach Ian Simpson with seventh grader Camden Cooper hitting for 17 against Covenant and Middleburg and center Andrew Hightower powering with 18 against Middleburg.

Middleburg (2-2) got a close game with Ridgeview (a 59-58 loss) before returning from a trip to Jacksonville Beach’s Beaches Chapel with a resounding 82-50 win prior to the loss to St. Johns.

Fleming Island (2-0) got strong wins against Westside (59-56) and Bishop Snyder (53-38) to open the season with Wolfson in town on Tues., Nov. 29 and a clash with Buchholz on Tues., Dec. 6.

Ethan Williams was top scorer against Westside with 21 points with Axel Holmquist adding 10. Williams also had eight rebounds. Against Snyder, Williams led scoring with 17 pints with Darien Domenick adding 13.

Clay opened with a 43-39 loss to Atlantic Coast with Beachside (2-0) coming to Clay on Tues., Nov. 29.