Eagles soar past Devils

AVON PARK - The Avon Park girls basketball team's charge to reach the 500 mark hit a road bump in a 63-50 loss to George Jenkins on Tuesday night.

The non-district loss dropped the Class 4A Red Devils to 8-11 on the season, while the win improved the Class 7A Eagles to 11-7.

"We start with a groove and then boom," said Avon Park coach Paulette Daley on her team's sporadic play at time. "Start with a groove and boom, so it's just connecting the dots. They should be connected by now."

Despite the late start, Avon Park sprinted out of the starting blocks taking a 9-0 lead. Jenkins responded as Morgan Oglesby and Ali Buis combined for three 3-pointers in a blistering first quarter in which both teams scored 16 points.

The scoring pace slowed in the second quarter as Avon Park went into the intermission holding a 27-25 lead.

The third quarter was a dogfight throughout the first seven minutes as the Red Devils gingerly held on to a 40-37 lead.

Then came the boom that Daley referred to as Jenkins scored the final six points, including the last two buckets with less than 5 seconds left to give the eagles a 43-40 heading into the final eight minutes.

The steam that propelled the Red Devils through the first three quarters was not enough to keep up with Jenkins and 6-foot, 2-inch Ayshia Baker, who scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the final stanza.

"We let the game come to us," said George Jenkins coach Kayla Young. "We had a tough game last night and spent a lot of emotion playing in a 3-point overtime loss to Bartow. They put it all on the line. We came out slow today, but we picked it up and started pulling away little by little. Keep pushing, keep working."

Avon Park's Toryana Jones tried to ignite a spark by scoring the first basket of the fourth quarter which brought the Red Devils back to within 43-42.

As Avon Park plateaued, George Jenkins notched it up another gear with a nine-point run to increase the Eagles lead to 52-42 with less than 4 minutes to play.

Jenkins followed that with another 10-4 run down the stretch, building a 62-46 lead, to win the game 63-50.

"She was finishing baskets," said Young of Baker. "We have been telling her all year, there are not many girls your size out there, run the floor, run to the basket, she accepted the challenge and she carried us."

Baker scored 10 of her 12 fourth quarter points in the final four minutes. Khale Chandler was a consistent scorer throughout the game for Jenkins as she posted 16 points.

"You have to fight adversity and fight from behind sometimes," said Daley about how to manage a tall opponent, "Box out, you have got to box out, that or you have to trap her. We were doing well with the defensive options that we were using."

"You just can't go down one time doing it consistent then go down two or three times and do it inconsistent. They were playing her around the high post most of the time, we just were not getting the rebounds, we have to crash the boards."

Jones led the Red Devils with a game-high 27 points and Kayla Sharpe added eight points in the loss.

Avon Park is home for their next game as they face the Clewiston Tigers for the second time on Friday night.

In their first meeting, the second game of this year, the Tigers walked away with a 51-41 win. Clewiston is currently 9-9 on the year.