OCOEE — The Ocoee Knights have had the feel of a team in unchartered waters all season, but on Tuesday night it became official.
The Knights’ 73-58 victory over Orlando Christian Prep was No. 17 on the season — a program record for wins in a season.
Ocoee (17-3) trailed after the first quarter and led by just three points at the conclusion of the third quarter, but the Knights buckled down on defense in the fourth and outscored the Warriors 21-9 the rest of the way.
“We were much, much better, defensively, off the ball,” Ocoee coach Rob Gordon said of his team’s performance in the second half. “We were getting into better support positions and better rebounding positions because of it. … In the fourth quarter we got those stops that you need if you’re going to pull away and get some distance and some space.”
The Knights were led by another dazzling effort on the offensive end by senior Grant Riller. Riller amassed 39 points on the night — a scoring total that came in spite of his being pulled twice by Gordon who, at times, was dissatisfied with his star’s effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“I’m going to continue to coach Grant as just another player on my basketball team,” Gordon said. “When I don’t see quite the energy or the effort that I need, from any player — let alone the best player — I’m going to go ahead and do what I have to do and make a teaching point.”
Riller’s strong scoring effort was complimented nicely by 14 points from Damerit Brown. Brown has had consecutive strong outings, says Gordon, and will be key as the Knights gear up for the district tournament in a few weeks.
“(Brown) has gone through some times this season but his learning curve right now is pretty good,” Gordon said. “I feel really good about him coming back after Christmas. Demerit is a guy that we’re going to need down the stretch if we’re going to make any kind of run at all.”
As for the significance of the actual accomplishment — a single-season record for wins — Gordon praised his senior class which has been essential in guiding the program through the transition.
“I just really feel great for our senior class because they have been through a 5-win season and now to be able to enjoy the fruits of the labor, at 17 (wins) with five or six (games) to go in the regular season,” Gordon said. “It just speaks volumes to their overall commitment to what our vision was when we got here.”