ORANGE PARK - In night one of the 2020 Orange Park Raider Bracket Buster Invitational, the host Raiders took on the Bartram Trail High Bears in a defensive slugfest that had a first quarter score of 5-3 in favor of the Bears.
The Raiders pushed through the Christmas break rust to get things going, and finally, after trying for six years, getting head coach Derek Kurnitsky, AKA Coach K, his first ever victory, a 43-33 score, over the Bears.
“It wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it," said Kurnitsky. "In games like this, you learn what your weaknesses are, and you keep working on them.”
Night two of the competition saw the Raiders lose 62-60 in an overtime contest to Columbia High.
“The kids haven’t played together since December 23rd," said Kurnitsky, who holds a 9-3 overall record. "We practiced three days, but it’s not a game and it’s just not the same.”
That statement was painfully obvious for both teams as the Raiders needed 14 shots before finally draining a foul shot by Javon Dickerson to get on the board at 1:11 of the first quarter. Dickerson, eight points on the night, 11 rebounds, would get help from Josiah Sabino with 11 points, and Jeremy Monterola with nine. Kadin Elmore was the other team leader with eight on the night.
While it wasn’t the Raider offense that was notable, the Orange Park defense was off the hook, with 11 turnovers at the half, moving up to 21 in the game.
“We have the 4th ranked defense in the area right now," said Kurnitsky. "I think we are pretty good on defense.” Where Kurnitsky knows he needs to keep working is obvious to him.
“We need to stop dribbling so much. We have to limit that. I want to pass and cut much more and speed the game up. We’re okay, we’ll get it. If we want to win on the higher level, we have to limit turnovers and pass much more.”
The Raiders pick up on the regular season with Raiderdome games against the Fletcher Senators on Tuesday, then a cross town rival, Friday night matchup against the Oakleaf Knights.