- Gainesville, FL. Written By: Kyrin Mayfield
It was a classic battle of David vs. Goliath as the Class-8A Ocoee Knights played the 3A
St. Francis Wolves on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams came in hot riding multiple game winning streaks. St. Francis head coach Issac Selva credits his team’s ability to work together as the reason for this recent success.
“Especially the last couple of weeks, we’ve started to play more as a team," Selva said. "We’ve had
multiple players be the leading scorer in multiple games, so we’ve been very unselfish with the
Ocoee head coach John Siers notes a similar reason as to why his defense has improved
over the last three games, which limited Spruce Creek & St. Francis to under 37 points.
“They’re really playing together. We have a motto that sounds like cheerleader stuff like
when we play hard together we’re going to be pretty good. We’ve just got to try and get a little
bit better every game,” Siers said.
They faced off a week ago in what could be considered the most magical arena in the
world, the Amway Center, in-which Ocoee pulled out a 39-30 win. Selva said his main takeaway from the first game was Ocoee’s size.
“They’re very big," he said. "They’re long and athletic. We learned that we just have to not play
their style. We have to play our style, and we just have to be patient and work to put up good
shots and try to frustrate them as much as we can and not let them frustrate us as much as
they did the last game.”
Selva may be concerned about Ocoee’s size, but he forgot to mention that his team has
some length of its own. The Wolves managed to grab four offensive rebounds in the first
quarter, three of them by six-foot-five sophomore Antonio Rizzo, who put up six points and helped his team take a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
An unusual play happened in which Ocoee called a timeout just one minute into the
“(Bradley Previl) lost his mind,” Coach Siers explained, “and didn’t run the play that we
spent 15 minutes working on before we got on the bus. I was like 'I’m not dealing with that
The Wolves took advantage of the confusion and grew their lead to as much as nine
midway through the second quarter. The Knights were plagued with multiple turnovers, missed
3-pointers and free throws. Their first points of the quarter came with three minutes left thanks to a lay-up by Janjoe Thelemaque. A couple of well-executed offensive play by the Knights, combined with full-court pressure that forced the Wolves into committing a ten-second violation, had them within four points at one point. They ended the half down 22-16.
The game quickly changed once the second half began. Ocoee’s defensive pressure
forced St. Francis into multiple turnovers while their own shots began to fall.
The Knights scored 12 points in the third quarter, the first quarter of the game in which they scored in
double-figures. Sadeem Blake and Briglain Previl both drained a three, while Kordell Brown
tacked on four points of his own. Even with the improved play, Ocoee was still down 32-28 with
one quarter to go.
The Knights tied the game a few minutes after play resumed thanks to a three by Blake
that was shot from Steph Curry's range. Turnovers continued to plague St. Francis as two of them
happened back-to-back, and led to breakaway lay-ups by Blake. Ocoee tacked on a few more
free throws and was now on top 47-41 with under a minute, to play.
Their JV team was getting involved by chanting louder than any noise heard, all game. A
home game for St. Francis all of a sudden felt like a road game.
Hope was not lost as the Wolves’ Omarion Littles drilled a three from what seemed like
a different area code with only seconds to spare. Ocoee’s Craig Coleman was intentionally
fouled moments after the ball was inbounded.
A missed first free throw prompted a roar from the St. Francis crowd and an immediate timeout by the Knights to try and calm Coleman down.
The huddle broke. Coleman stepped up to the line trying to maintain his composure while
about 25 St. Francis students elevated their voices high enough to make the ground shake. A shriek was let out right as the ball left Coleman’s hands. The crowd held its breath. The ball went in. Ocoee ended up winning the game 49-44 and taking the season series.
A 21-point fourth quarter was enough to salvage the game for the Knights.
“We’re good enough to do that every quarter, but my guys don’t like me all the time so
they try to give me a heart attack,” coach Siers said jokingly.
Blake led the Knights with 18 points, 13 of which came in the final quarter. Miguel Yepez
was the leading scorer for the Wolves with 12.
The win propelled Ocoee back to .500 with an 8-8 record. They play the Mariner High
Tritons next on Monday, in Orlando.
St. Francis fell to 7-10 but remains in second in their district with a 3-1 record, a
testament to their difficult non-district schedule.
“Our schedule is a gauntlet,” Selva said. “We play the schedule that we play because it’s
going to make us better in the district and in the playoffs. We play teams like Ocoee, who are
bigger than us, so that later on we’re used to playing these types of teams.”
They’ll take on another big foe when they play the Class-6A North Marion Colts, on
Monday at the Forest High School MLK Classic.