Eagles hold on over Blue Wave

Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at 11:08 p.m.

Ever since the Brittany Davis era at Buchholz ended two years ago, parity has defined girls basketball in the area.

At various times, Eastside and Santa Fe likely could have laid claim to having the top local team. Meanwhile, Gainesville recently won the city championship, and the Bobcats are garnering a reputation as one of the state's better defensive clubs.

The most consistent program of the bunch has been P.K. Yonge, which has made itself a regular at the Class 2A final four in recent seasons. But if the Blue Wave have a thorn they can't seem to pull out, it is another growing small-school power.

Oak Hall.

After a 64-63 District 6-2A-clinching road victory Tuesday night, the Eagles, Class A state semifinalists in 2002, have defeated P.K. Yonge three straight times dating back to last season.

"I think one thing we have done very well against them is not get caught up in a running game," said Oak Hall coach Eric Ringdahl, whose ninth-ranked team beat No. 6 P.K. Yonge, 58-48, at home on Dec. 2. "Most of the time in this game, we played our tempo and worked the ball to get shots that are to our advantage.

"(The Blue Wave) are very athletic and are gifted shooting the ball," Ringdahl said. "And to beat them, you have to take advantage of any opportunities you get."

The Eagles (10-5, 4-0) were extremely opportunistic in the first half and appeared on the verge of blowing out P.K. Yonge (9-6, 2-2), taking a 43-29 lead into the locker room.

But with Florida Gators coach Carolyn Peck on hand to watch her, Blue Wave junior guard Ashley McDonald scored 12 of her game-high 23 points in the third, as P.K. Yonge chipped the Oak Hall advantage to 53-46 entering the final quarter.

Then, behind sophomore center Janine Williams - who had all eight of her points in the fourth, just one day after being called up from the junior varsity - the Blue Wave continued their rally, even taking a 57-55 lead at the 4:56 mark.

But Eagles sophomore point guard Courtney Lee dispelled any notions of P.K. Yonge winning the game by scoring six of her seven points in the final 4:51 to secure the victory.

While Lee served as the Eagles' finisher, most of the game saw junior forward/guard Kittery Neale (18 points, 13 rebounds and a compliment on her playing from Peck to Ringdahl after the game) and Whitney Edmunds (14 points) lead Oak Hall.

"They have a great coach, play hard and execute," said P.K. Yonge coach Willie Powers, whose team could see the Eagles again in the district tournament at Oak Hall and, later, the regional final.

"We had no intensity in the first half, and that's how they got the lead," Powers said. "But I was proud of how hard our kids played in coming back.

"We have to play 32 minutes full speed. We played 16 and Oak Hall played 32. That was the difference."

John Patton is The Sun's high school sports editor. You can reach him by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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