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SIDELINE SCENE: Ocoee hoops on uptick after win at DP
West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 5 years ago

SIDELINE SCENE: Ocoee hoops on uptick after win at DP

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by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

Rob Gordon called it as he saw it in the moments after the Ocoee Knights boys basketball team defeated Dr. Phillips, at Dr. Phillips, Dec. 9.

“That’s a program-defining win for us,” Gordon said after the Knights scored the 86-80 victory. “That’s the biggest win in the four years that I’ve been here. … That’s a team that is trying to win a state championship, and for us to come into their place and beat them — that speaks volumes to where we are going and what we are trying to do.”

Of course, Gordon wasn’t alone in his evaluation. Ocoee improved to a perfect 7-0 with the win against the Panthers, and the Orlando Sentinel bumped the Knights up to No. 5 in its poll of Central Florida’s best teams.

Since then, Ocoee (7-2) has dropped a pair of contests against good teams (to Evans, 55-48, and to The First Academy, 74-71). It’s a bit of a damper on the program’s unprecedented start to the season, but the fact remains — with arguably the best backcourt in Central Florida, the Knights are asserting themselves as one of the area’s strongest teams.

That backcourt, consisting of senior guards Grant Riller and Vaughn McCall, has been key in each of Ocoee’s seven wins.

“They just play so well off of each other,” Gordon said of Riller and McCall’s play after the two combined for 54 points in the win over DP. “But tonight, everything came within the flow of the system and not just one of the two of them having to take over a game.”

Riller is an emerging candidate for Central Florida’s best player, with an ability to score seemingly at will, and McCall is growing into the perfect complement, wisely playing whatever role the squad needs of him on a given night — be it scorer, distributor or both.

The Knights’ losses came on a back-to-back against two of the area’s top teams, and Saturday’s loss to The First Academy came with McCall having to sit out with a minor injury. Nevertheless, Riller scored a program-record 39 points in the defeat.

Although district tournaments are still a ways away, Ocoee finds itself facing a big week now that the Knights won’t be taking anyone by surprise this season. Ocoee hosted Jones on Tuesday and traveled to take on rival West Orange on Wednesday, the results of which were unavailable at press time.

Following those important contests, the Knights will travel Dec. 19 to Apopka to take on the Blue Darters in a district battle. It will be the conclusion to a stretch that Gordon believes will be a good indicator of whether his team is for real or not this winter. 

For more commentary, insights and in-game analysis from Sports Editor Steven Ryzewski, follow him on Twitter at @StevenR_WOTO.

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