ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High basketball coach Jerome Clyburn had plenty of his own great basketball performances in the Orange Park High RaiderDome and Monday’s night’s district opener in Orange …
ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High basketball coach Jerome Clyburn had plenty of his own great basketball performances in the Orange Park High RaiderDome and Monday’s night’s district opener in Orange Park High’s RaiderDome felt a little like it might be approaching that same level.
“It was good but our guys got a little tired” said Clyburn, who played under then-coach Darryl Lauderdale and made a few deep region runs as a Raider. “They worked hard. They stayed together.”
Orange Park staved off a furious first and third quarter by the streak-shooting Panthers, but, in the end, it was Orange Park coach Derek Kurnitsky with the big smile, maybe in appreciation of the historical nature of the Clyburn connection. Orange Park won 75-46 in a game full of excitement despite the lopsided score.
“We looked like a different team,” said Kurnitsky, who will faceoff with top seed Robert E. Lee in Wednesday semifinal. “Big game Wednesday, but things are clicking. We have synergy.”
With several overtime victories under their belts, they knew how to pull out a win. But tonight, the Raiders said not so fast as the cross-town rivals went toe-to-toe through the first quarter as Clyburn shot his team out of a cannon and pulled out all the stops from tipoff.
Like a well-trained prize fighter, the Raiders took a few good shots and even lagged behind momentarily as the Panthers sprinted the court, trying to tire the Raiders. But Orange Park came out swinging hard, nailing eight three-pointers with Deandre Dickerson banking three 3-pointers on his way to an 11 point night, and Corey Thomas leading the Raiders with 20 as the Raiders showed their dominance in their conditioning
“I think we had a hell of a season through my eyes,” said Clyburn. “No matter what, up 20, down 20, they stayed together. They continued to work hard. Next season, we’ll get the guys in much better shape before the season and I have to continue teaching them how to win. They didn’t know how to win. Now they are winning. Every year, we’ve been making a jump. They competed.”
The game was furious from tip-off as the Panthers went to rifling the ball around the court, finding the open man and taking the shot. Quickly the game was tied at 7-7, then the Panthers had a lead, 9-7.
The Raiders were unphased by the tempo and kept up whatever pace the Panthers set. After several minutes of playing at speed, the Panther shots began missing, and the Raiders played the boards with perfection, cleared, and took it to the house over and over. At the end of the first, The Raiders pulled out by 10, 19-9.
“There’s no more warm-ups. It’s playoff time,” said Kurnitsky. “There’s no more warm ups.”
In the second quarter, the Panthers improved to 11, but the Raider rebounds and boards were too much as the teams hit the lockers 34-20 at the half. At the half, the Raiders already nailed four 3-pointers and were lethal from all over the court.
Out of the break, they may have served some energy drinks as the pace nearly doubled for both teams.
The frantic back-and-forth was relentless as the Panthers piled on 19 points for the quarter. The Raiders too put on a show with two more 3-pointers and Corey Thomas hitting for 12 points alone in the quarter as the Raiders doled out a 25 point third quarter pummeling.