BARTRAM TRAIL - Oakleaf High basketball took the rough road to the district final with a dominating win over top-seed Nease High, but let a late lead fall in the final; a 41-39 loss to second seed …
BARTRAM TRAIL - Oakleaf High basketball took the rough road to the district final with a dominating win over top-seed Nease High, but let a late lead fall in the final; a 41-39 loss to second seed Bartram Trail in Friday’s championship game at Bartram Trail High School.
“We had a good defensive plan and we executed it pretty good; their center (6’-10” Alijah Kuehl) averaged 18 points per game and we held him to 11,” said Oakleaf coach Jason Price. “Our issues tonight were on offense; six of 20 from the three point line. We did not shoot the ball particularly well tonight.”
After ramping up an early first quarter lead, 10-7, the low scoring contest was going to depend on defense and opportunistic offense, said Price.
With the second quarter opening to a Corey Humbles three pointer from a corner, Oakleaf kept the pressure on defensively though the halftime lead was 16-14. Oakleaf missed three three point attempts in the stanza while Bartram Trail hit the buzzer beater, though after the buzzer, the stage was set for a wild second half as the Bears sensed momentum.
“Even with the miss, they ran into the locker room fired up,” said Price. “We had a sense of letting the game get away after the strong first quarter. That halfcourt shot at the end is one that we should always take. We kind of ran through the stop signs instead of being patient and taking solid shots.”
Bartram Trail used the energy of the halftime shot to fuel a third quarter game shifter with guard Justin Navin stealing and feeding Kuehl on a breakaway that rocked the Knights’ defense.
Humbles hit a jumper and D.J. Jackson canned a pair of free throws to keep Oakleaf up 18-17 before Bartram Trail climbed to a 25-22 lead to the fourth quarter.
“Gage (Cooper) had a strong offensive rebound and jumper that did not fall at the buzzer that was just not our night,” said Price. “We make that, we get the momentum back on our end.”
Oakleaf finally got a three from guard David Compere at 6:18 in the fourth to close the game to 28-27 with Compere hitting one of two free throws to tie the game.
Bartram Trail countered with Navin getting a frantic steal and smoothly landing a three to push Bartram Trail to a 32-28 lead.
Cooper had his own three point momentum shaker to a 32-31 gap with Cooper hitting a squeezed turnaround jumper off Kuehl’s tight defense to tie the game at 33-33 at 3:19 to go.
After a Bartram Trail timeout, Kuehl landed a layup after a strong defensive stand by Oakleaf as Navin kept feigning drives to the basket only to be halted by Cooper stepping into the lane.
Oakleaf got reduced to intentional fouls to slow Bartram Trail despite a final three from Compere for the 41-39 final.
“I liked the energy we had, but we have to take advantage of the opportunities,” said Price, who will travel to Seminole High (14-7) on Thurs., Feb. 18 for their region opener. “Possessions and baskets are important in a game like this. We wanted to hold them to a low score, but we have to make the shots.”
Bartram Trail (13-13) will host Lake Mary (11-10).