ORANGE PARK – The Orange Park High Lady Raiders basketball team looked more like the Orange Park Wrecking Crew when they faced off for the district 4-6A title against the host Ridgeview High Lady Panthers. Going no holds barred, the Raiders simply pillaged the Panthers from the tip off, blowing open a 27-4 first quarter lead that blindsided Ridgeview and never allowed the Panther to catch their breath for even a moment. Orange Park won 63-30 with both teams advancing into the region playoffs; a first for the Ridgeview High program
“I told them yesterday in practice and I told them in the pre-game, you have to put this thing away,” said Orange Park Head Coach Fredrick Cole. “You’re playing somebody at home, we just didn’t look good on Tuesday, and I told them when they saw us play on Tuesday they are thinking- hey; we can hang with them. I told them I don’t want to leave any doubt. Let’s put it away in the first quarter if we can.”
With the Panthers going from a last place team four years ago, to the district title game was an accomplishment on its own, but the lack of playoff exposure may have been the blinding bright light that the Panthers couldn’t stop staring into. After a 46 point first half, Orange Park put it on autopilot cruising to a 63-30 victory that closes out a perfect, undefeated 9-0 district run.
“These girls played outstanding, but they’ve never been on a stage like this, they never had a big game like this” said Ridgeview coach Trent Gilford. “That was the girls being nervous and inexperienced. We’ll get some rest, some treatment and be back in the gym tomorrow. The basketball never stops.”
Ridgeview did get the very first point of the game with a free throw at 7:20, and that was all the Raiders needed to kick things into high gear. Orange Park didn’t need to pressure the Panthers too much to get the ball back as Ridgeview simply had issues all night getting the ball to drop.
“We haven’t played like this in about a month” said Cole. “The energy, the way we bounced, the way we pushed the ball, the way we ran. We live on running. And that was with not calling many offenses tonight. We didn’t need to. We just scored off the defense, and defense wins games.”
Orange Park (22-5) will host Ribault (16-8), the district 3-6A runnerup to Bishop Kenny on Thurs., Feb. 14 while Ridgeview (14-8) travels to Bishop Kenny (25-2) for their region opener.