ORANGE PARK – “Defense; that is where we want to hang our hat at” is how Orange Park Lady Raiders girls basketball coach Frederick Cole described how his team had so much dominance over the visiting Ridgeview Panthers tonight inside the Raiderdome. “We worked defense all week on, never even focused on any offense” and it showed as the Raiders racked up double digit takeaways by the half, then went on to bury the Panthers 71-41.
It wasn’t a Flash-mob offense as the game started slow, but came to a boil quickly. “We were sluggish Tuesday night against Fernandina Beach, and started sluggish tonight. But the girls got into it and with this being a bit of a rival game, things picked up.” Throwing a blanket over the Panthers with defense, by the end of the first quarter, the Raiders were sitting on a 19-7 lead, then opened it up to 42-19 at the half. Orange Park was a little off on initial shots, but the girls under the glass did their job very well and drained the rebounds. “We are working on four girls going under the rim on the shot, and one dropping back for defense. I’ve been playing Khaleeha Restall because she is a rebound machine. When she’s in there, she’s coming down with the ball. She ups everyone’s game. Nia Brown and Sha’mia Capers were really hot on the boards tonight as well.”
In the third quarter, the Raider defense held the Panthers to 11 points as they put up 20 more for a 62-30 lead with one quarter left.
In the last quarter, Cole held auditions.
“I was able to play the younger girls tonight and get them some valuable experience,” said Cole. “That’s going to help us in the long run so I know who I can go to when my starters need a break.”
Raider guard Macie Faucett led her team with 15 points, followed by Amara Delgado with 10. Of note, 10 girls dressed out and played. All 10 scored points.
Asked if he’s where he wants to be on the season, coming off the break, Cole said “Last year I think we peaked too early. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Last year we dealt with some injuries, peaked in December, then started a downslide. My starters were worn out. Tonight, my starters got in there, then got some rest. This year, we are doing well. I’m able to rotate players out. We’re about where we need to be. Not there yet, but we are going in the right direction.” The Raiders will face their next cross-town rival when they host the Oakleaf Knights in one week.
Before facing the Knights, they will square-off against Paxon and Episcopal.