OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High guard Taliah Scott nailed her first two jumpers; both three-pointers, with teammate Kaylah Turner pumping in her own as the first three shots for the Lady Knights proved …
OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High guard Taliah Scott nailed her first two jumpers; both three-pointers, with teammate Kaylah Turner pumping in her own as the first three shots for the Lady Knights proved prophetic in a 76-61 win for first year coach Fred Cole over Timber Creek High in the region 1-7A championship game held Friday at Oakleaf High School.
“This was our best first quarter all season,” said Scott, who has singed the nets for 36, 26 and 32 in the Lady Knights region playoff run. “We came out and moved the ball, took great shots and played great defense in that first half which really got us going and led us to this win.”
For Cole, emotionally drained as the final buzzer blared, fell to tears on his bench.
“Tears of joy,” said Cole, now 24-2 and headed to the Lakeland Civic Center on Friday to face Tampa Plant in Oakleaf High Schools first-ever basketball foray into state basketball lore. “The whole season has emotionally been a lot for me and the girls. The girls did so much to get this win and get to state.”
Scott continued her slinging into the first quarter with a third one plus a foul shot creating a four point play and a 17-11 cushion that the Lady Knights precariously held on to to the final buzzer.
“We knew that the game was going to be a matter of us having a strong first quarter then holding off their swings to get back,” said Cole. “They are a great team and we knew they would not lay down even if we got a lead at some point. We just got it right out of the gate and that was to our advantage.”
With Scott’s opening salvo rattling the Timber Creek game plan; Timber Creek guard Melina Thompson hit their lone first quarter three at 12-9, Oakleaf seemed destined to create a blowout in what should have been a tightly contested matchup of basketball gazelles on the hardwood.
“I told them at the half to not let up because they would come back hard to close the gap,” said Cole. “And, they did.”
Scott and Turner continued their hot shooting with inside rebounding help from center Trenity Ferebee who battled Timber Creek’s two 6’-3” post players; freshman Alicia Williams and junior Savannah Houston, for loose balls off the backboard to keep the Knights on the offense side of the court including an offense rebound off a Fantasia James miss that got two free throws followed by a defensive trap with teammate Geniyah Durante that got a possession five second violation as the second quarter started.
“Everyone was scrapping on the floor,” said Cole. “It was a thing of beauty to watch from my perspective because they were not going to let this one slip away.”
Timber Creek got as close as 34-30 with 41 seconds to halftime before Scott put a layup plus foul three point play in to end the half.
On the first play of the second half, Scott would alertly intercept a Timber Creek pass and break to a layup to send the Oakleaf High fan section into a frenzy, but misses from Scott and Turner and an ugly jumper from Durante let Timber Creek to creep to 39-36 before Durante squelched the comeback effort with back-to-back threes to give Oakleaf back a six point cushion; 45-39.
“Coach told me to keep shooting and believing in my shot,” said Durante. “The other part of the plan was to attack their height with drives and get them in foul trouble.”
Turner tapped out the third quarter with her own back-to-back threes as the stanza ended at 57-49 and the Oakleaf High gym roof about to pop off with anticipation.
“We got a little lazy in the third I guess because everything was going our way and we were just watching the game,” said Scott. “Coach called a time out and nicely told us that this game is far from being over. So we stepped back up and finished.”
Oakleaf resorted to pressure defense with no fouls plus some keep-away with the ball to eat the clock and frustrate Timber Creek’s coaching staff to the tune of a double technical foul called as the Lady Knights cruised to the win with seven final free throws.