ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High's girls basketball team, fresh off a resounding district title of 2019 and a region playoff game, opened the new season with a thrilling 60-58 double overtime win over 3A-Providence on November 19, but the mojo ran out against 7A power Nease (region finalist) and 6A power Ribault.
"We wanted to come out and challenge ourselves this year right out of the gate," said Orange Park coach Fred Coles. "Coming off of last year, we have returners and with the new playoff points system, we have to schedule quality teams."
Ribault, twice a region semifinal loser to Bishop Kenny, came to the RaiderDome to face the Lady Raiders for a third time with the Lady Trojans holding court decisively in the first two meetings last year; 59-47 in January and 52-38 in the region opener in February.
"I told the girls that we know have the target on our back and that teams will be bringing their best game to us," said Coles. "That's what happened Tuesday night with Nease. Nease is strong, Ribault is just Ribault."
On Friday, the result was no different, 60-39.
The Lady Raiders opened with a cautious 9-6 first quarter gap despite a handful of misses on contested layups. The Lady Raiders opened with a 6-0 lead off a looping pick and roll from Williams to sophomore Nia Brown, a Capers offensive rebound to layup and a second Williams to Brown pick and roll that got two free throws.
"Sha'Mia is dealing with a foot injury and she hasn't been her normal aggressive," said Coles. "When she gets back to her normal speed, we'll be better underneath."
Ribault obviously was not happy with their initial output and immediately turned on the afterburners and a full court press to storm to a 32-15 halftime lead; a 9-23 scoring spree.
After the break, the Raiders popped off five quick points off a Williams three-pointer to close the gap and keep Ribault off balance at 39-20.
Another Williams three pointer hushed the Ribault bench a bit, but a time out and some lethal "advising" by Ribault coach put a faster pace on the court as the storm slipped to 44-27 at the end of the third quarter.
Ribault outscored the Raiders 16-12 in the final stanza for the final 60-39 score.
Brown had a three pointer and two late layups to prevent a runaway game.
"Nia is our rock on defense," said Coles. "She is steady and saves us a lot with her play. Nia is our safety net on the defense."
The Lady Raiders, 22-6 last year, returned a nucleus of that team led by guard Nayeli Williams, forward Sha'Mia Capers, guard Yoly Rosado and guard Macie Faucett, all seniors.
The Lady Raiders entered the new season with one absence in Rosado with a torn ACL in her knee.
Against Providence, Faucett finished with 22 points (4-3-Ptrs) with Capers and Brown both adding 11 apiece. Brown led with seven rebounds and five steals.
Against Nease, a 63-46 loss, Faucett again led scoring with 15 with Brown adding 13 with 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.Capers was held to just one basket.
Orange Park goes on the road for three straight games with visits to Ponte Vedra (Tues., Nov. 26), Ridgeview (Dec. 2) and Oakleaf (Dec. 3).