Behind a 24-point night from David Green, the Knights sealed up a spot in the Class 7A, District 3 finals against Dr. Phillips on Friday.
Clinching a spot in a championship game is always fun, but beating a rival to get there makes it that much sweeter.
Such was the case for the Ocoee boys basketball team when they knocked off rival West Orange 57-50 in the Class 7A, District 3 semifinals Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Apopka High School.
“I never thought we lost control even though we got out rebounded — Eric (Jones) and those guys do a tremendous job rebounding the basketball,” said Ocoee Head Coach John “Sarge” Siers. “David (Green) scored our first eight or nine (points) and Sadeem (Blake) scored our last seven, and they really don't care who is getting the buckets — they’re really connected together and they’re a special group.”
Going into Wednesday night’s game the Knights (20-6) and Warriors (17-11) had only played each other once during the season in a showdown at the Amway Center back in January — a game that saw West Orange sneak out with a 45-43 win.
From the opening tip-off of the district semifinal matchup, however, it felt like Ocoee would run away with things early, as the Knights went on a 17-2 run over the span of five minutes to give them the 25-13 advantage. Green would play a big factor in helping push Ocoee ahead early, as he scored 19 of his game high 24 points in the first half, while Blake would go on to finish with nine points and Kordell Brown finished with 11 points.
West Orange didn't wait until the half to make adjustments, however, and the Warriors chipped away at the Knights’ lead with one shot at a time — thanks to a stellar performance by junior forward Mike McCalister — and cut the deficit to 33-27 going into the break. McCalister would go on to finish with 23 points on the night.
The Warriors would continue to eat away at Ocoee’s lead throughout the second half — holding the Knights to within three to six points — but could never seem to take advantage of opportunities.
The win was critical for the Knights as they look to get the automatic-postseason berth that comes with winning the district, but for Ocoee it’s just another step forward, Siers said.
“If you ask them why Friday night is important, they’ll say, ‘It’s the next one,’” Siers said. “That’s been our theme the whole time — we haven't worried about championships, we just worry about the next one.”
Now the Warriors will wait to see where they land in the FHSAA Class 7A state playoff, while the Knights will face a familiar foe in Dr. Phillips — who beat Apopka in the second semifinal — in the district championship game Friday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m.