OAKLEAF - With top scorer Taliah Scott exiting early with fouls, the “Three Amigas” of Oakleaf; Scott, Kaylah Turner and Fantasia James were one down against one of the top coaches in Florida in …
OAKLEAF - With top scorer Taliah Scott exiting early with fouls, the “Three Amigas” of Oakleaf; Scott, Kaylah Turner and Fantasia James were one down against one of the top coaches in Florida in a clash of powerhouses Thursday night at Oakleaf High School.
“We learned that we can rely on our sixth, seventh and eighth players to hold the line,” said Oakleaf coach Fred Cole, who saw Turner, normally a defensive stalwart for Cole, turn up the volume on offense after Scott sat with nearly seven minutes still in the very intense game. “Next man up, we practice hard for these types of games from the top down. They roared and we responded.”
The dagger for a Nease final finishing surge went to junior forward Trinity Ferebee who hit a key layup and grabbed the game ending rebound in a scrum to halt the Panthers’ final efforts to steal the game.
“We all work together, but when I got out there, I knew I had to make the play,” said Ferebee. “I kind of felt it was a momentum changer, but at the time, I just wanted to hit the shot and contribute.”
Turner, with a three pointer at 1:32 left in the first period, got Oakleaf a 16-14 lead as both teams traded aggressive, in-your-pocket defenses for offensive strategy.
“I’ve developed my midrange shot all season and got that pretty solid for games like this where everyone has to contribute,” said Turner. “When Taliah fouled out, I had to step up.”
James answered with a three pointer to add to Turner’s salvo as Oakleaf started to get hot on the three point stripe including Scott as the Lady Knights befuddled the Nease tight defense to go up 31-18 in a span of just two minutes.
“We knew they were not going to quit and we had to stay on the offensive,” said Cole. “That’s a Hall of Fame coach with a handful of deep playoff runs. We knew she would adjust at the half. We got split a lot on our press and will work on that. They were getting rebounds and second, third shots out there, but they are a Final Four program.”
Oakleaf continued to singe the nets to a 42-28 seemingly insurmountble lead en route to Scott sending the Panthers into the lockers with a final three and a 47-37 lead.
Cole’s prophecy of the Panthers’ surging after the half proved prophetic as coach Sherri Anthony had her team meeting the Knights offense nearly at halfcourt to squelch open three point shots while taking advantage of a rather loose foul-calling whistle by the referees; both teams were over 10 team fouls early in the second quarter with Oakleaf tagged to giving up bonus free throws near the six minute mark of the fourth quarter.
“Teams of this caliber should be just playing ball and not shooting free throws all night,” said a clearly agitated Anthony as she left the court.
That being said after the game, Nease did come back to as close as 59-55 with 1:25 to go in the third before Turner hit a three that rolled Anthony’s eyes on the sideline in an exasperation of her defensive efforts.
“I have said, you guard one, we have one with an off night, it’s nice to have the rest of the team on the same page,” said Cole. “We have had four big games in a row this week and needed this to prepare us for playoffs.”
James would double down to start the fourth with her own three with Turner again bringing the house down with a bomb to get the score to 69-60. Scott exited the game at 69-60 with Nease sensing another opportunity to dent the Knights’ lead but Turner quickly extinguished the thought with a will-breaking jumper then an offensive rebound conversion to push Oakleaf to a 73-64 lead. With Cole trading in his speed game for inside prowess with Ferebee, Adrionna Coleman and Dasiah Mason clogging the lane, it was Ferebee who took a baseline pass from guard Geniya Durante and sunk a layup that put a screech on some Nease momentum for a final run. Ferebee would hustle down court on defense and come up with a game-ending rebound in a scrum under the Nease basket to end the game.
Cole’s season had just two days to simmer down with a gauntlet of games to follow; Hawthorne (11-3) on Monday, Flagler Palmer Coast (10-5) on Tuesday and Terry Parker on Wednesday.