JACKSONVILLE – With center Chantz Williams smashing five shot blocks and guard Kenny Thomas snaring sevent steals on the day, the Oakleaf High Knights basketball team won a defensive 41-25 tournament game over 6A-Wolfson at the Bernard Wilkes Memorial Basketball Tournament at Ribault High on Thurs., Jan. 3.
“This was a defensive game, but we did not shoot the ball well from the foul line,” said Oakleaf coach Jason Price. “Last couple of games, we’ve been to the foul line 20-25 times. It’s just something we have to do to put more points on the board.”
The game puts momentum in the hands of the Knights season with a recent win over 8A-Robert E. Lee at the Baker County Christmas Tournament followed by a third place finish at Baker County with a win over host Baker County.
Against Wolfson, winless in 11 games thus far, Price was looking for a strong overall team performance before schools reopen on Tues., Jan. 8 and the Knights hosting district 4-8A defending champion and 8A runnerup Creekside. Both Oakleaf and Creekside are 0-2 in district play behind leader Fleming Island (3-0) and Bartram Trail (2-1).
“I guess you can say a sloppy win is okay because we can look at the film and see where we are,” said Price. “We have a rough return to the regular season and have to correct a lot of things. It’s all correctable stuff.”
The Knights first week of January features a strong lineup of 8A teams including Fletcher, Buchholz and Bartram Trail with Fleming Island on the end of the gauntlet on January 18.
Against Wolfson, Thomas led the low-scoring campaign with 13 points with Jordyn Copeland adding six and 6’-6” Jalen Rivers adding five points and five rebounds to the statistics.
With both teams mishandling the ball throughout the first period, the score knotted at 6-6 with neither team able to score baskets inside. Williams blocked Wolfson’s first two shots just after the opening whistle.
More errors highlighted the beginning of the second period as Wolfson snuck ahead 10-8, but the Knights’ offense woke up behind Thomas steals, layups and free throws as the Knights ended the half up 21-15.
In the second half, Williams started to exert some offensive pressure on top of his defensive presence as Rivers added his heft to the defense to force unwanted shots as the Knights pushed to a 29-20 lead into the fourth quarter that quickly became a Thomas layup and foul shot for a three point play and a Rivers rebound to layup as Oakleaf pushed their lead to 34-20 near the four minute mark.
“Jalen has started to find his spot out there,” said Price. “He definitely adds to our defensive in front of the basket just with his size, but he had been to some football commitments lately. He has not had many practices since before Baker County. He’ll be a factor in this second half of the season.”
A jumper from Markel Allums off a strong pick from Williams finished the game at 41-25.