by Nate Marrero | Correspondent
OCOEE After being down by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter, the West Orange Warriors (11-5) outscored the Ocoee Knights (7-8) 35-20 in the fourth quarter to earn an 87-81 win over their nearby rivals in an entertaining game of high school basketball.
Jaylin Thomas led the Warriors with 24 points, and Ian Lopez added 16 points. Derrick Rucker and Jean Delirius both had 25 points for the Knights.
“We needed it bad,” West Orange coach Eric Jones said of his team's big win. “We had been playing pretty good, but we hadn’t been playing the competition we normally face. This is a rivalry game so we expected them to give us their best effort.”
The Knights got off to a quick start, as they jumped ahead to a 22-14 lead at the end of the first quarter behind Eisley Porter’s 11 points. Ocoee would maintain their momentum throughout the second quarter, outscoring West Orange 21-15 to go into halftime leading 43-29.
In the second half, the Knights would extend their lead to as many as 16 points — but the Warriors slowly chipped away and trimmed Ocoee’s advantage to 61-52 by the end of the third quarter.
"I think that gave us the opportunity to reclaim the momentum," Jones said, referencing a field West Orange converted just before the third quarter came to an end.
West Orange would carry the momentum of the buzzer-beating layup into the fourth quarter, going on a 10-0 run to trim Ocoee’s lead to just one point, 61-60, with 5:08 left in the game. The Warriors would take their first lead since the beginning of the first quarter on two free throws from KJ Simon, eventually extending the swing in their favor to 14 points before Ocoee scored for the first time in the fourth quarter.
Both teams would go back and forth throughout the rest of the quarter, but West Orange would not relinquish its lead.
Nate Marrero is a senior at Ocoee High School and an aspiring sports journalist.