PONTE VEDRA – Oakleaf High’s boys basketball team came in with some new looks to their lineup and one notable returner; senior center Chantz Williams, at 6’-4” as the Knights’ season opener …
PONTE VEDRA – Oakleaf High’s boys basketball team came in with some new looks to their lineup and one notable returner; senior center Chantz Williams, at 6’-4” as the Knights’ season opener wound up a tale of two halves and a near-comeback loss to 6A-Ponte Vedra High, a region quarterfinalist last year, and two wins; a 67-57 win over Ridgeview on Friday and a 40-30 tournament win over Lake Minneola on Saturday.
“It (the Ponte Vedra game, a 59-55 loss) was simply playing with the energy we are capable of in the second half,” said Oakleaf High coach Jason Price, who saw his first quarter score roll to a startling 20-6 deficit against the three-point sharpshooting of the Sharks to becoming a race of time in the second half that fell short 59-55. “We won each of the next three quarters and outscored them 49-39 on the road. We always like to start off the season with a really quality opponent on the road I think it builds some toughness.”
In the dreadful first quarter against Ponte Vedra, the Knights’ ballhandling was suspect at best with turnovers victimizing scoring chances.
Williams starting to exert his presence in the lane in the second quarter with a superb spinning jumper off a pass from guard Quintez Johnson and a blocked shot in a span that inched the Knights to a 25-12 deficit.
A hook shot by Williams off a feed from Kenny Thomas plus two visits to the free throw line kept the Knights in the chase at 30-20 with 1:15 left to the half with Thomas muscling up a jumper to get the Sharks lead under 10 points at 31-22. Ponte Vedra would close the half with free throws to a 34-22 lead.
“Chantz was terrific 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks,” said Price. “He is nine blocks from setting the school shot block record in just three years.”
Oakleaf exploded in the third with a driving layup from guard Markel Allums setting the tone for a more aggressive push through the lane for the Knights’ offense.
Oakleaf finished off a 8-1 scoring run with a three pointer from Corey Humbles as Oakleaf fought to a 35-30 score with 4:22 left in the third.
Oakleaf surged for five more unanswered points with sophomore Amari Fletcher nailing a three pointer at 1:45 left in the third to tie the game at 35-35.
“Fletcher stepped up had 11 points and Kenny Thomas added 14 points,” said Price.
Ponte Vedra finally returned to their perimeter shooting and pushed ahead to a 42-37 lead, but Oakleaf kept persisting with Fletcher going no-look to Allums for a 42-41 Sharks’ lead.
Johnson would hit a three pointer at 2:05 to 50-46, but Oakleaf was victimized by Sharks foul throws that got a 58-50 lead with just six seconds on the clock.
Another three pointer from Humbles locked the score at 58-55 with less than a second on the clock and a glimmer of momentum on the Knights’ bench but Ponte Vedra finished with one more free throw.
“I was proud of our fight and our energy in the come back that shows a lot of toughness a lot of togetherness something to build on,” said Price.
On Friday, Oakleaf held off a game Ridgeview High (0-3) team behind 30 points from Kenny Thomas and a banner night from Williams; 12 rebounds, eight points and a rim-rattling dunk in the second half.
Against 8A-Lake Minneola, Oakleaf won 40-30 at the Jackie Simmons Invite at Andrew Jackson High School.