Our Holiday Hoops Hangover lasted a bit longer this year, so it took us a while to get back into the gym. We took a short drive from the Source Hoops Hacienda to West Oaks Academy in Orlando to catch the Flame home game against SIAA conference rival Central Point Christian Academy out of Kissimmee.
West Oaks got off to a quick start after a steal by Maurice Odom on Central Pointe’s first possession of the game turned into two points for the Flame. That was the high-water mark of the first four minutes as neither team could generate any sustained offense. The score was only 4-2 in favor of West Oaks at that point. The White Tigers of Central Pointe were the first to get on a roll and led 10-6 with 10:20 to play in the first half, forcing a Flame timeout. West Oaks got things in gear after that stoppage in play. They outscored Central Pointe 21-9 over the next six minutes, taking a 27-19 lead. West Oaks’ lead would grow to ten a bit later but Central Pointe made a run to cut the margin to six, 32-26, at half-time.
West Oaks continued to hold an advantage and led 38-28 after the first two minutes of the second half. At that point, the White Tigers went to a zone press on defense and it produced results. Within two minutes, the deficit was only three points at 41-38. Central Pointe would continue to inch closer and with ten minutes to play in the contest was down only one at 49-48. The Flame then produced four quick points to give them some breathing room, but this time Central Point didn’t let them get out of reach. With six minutes to play, West Oaks took a time out up 60-56. It became a new ball game when Central Pointe’s Carlos Cortijo converted a three-point play to tie the game at 62-62 with 3:42 remaining. Joshua Watkins of West Oaks answered with a three-pointer to return the lead to the Flame. Without hesitation, Mykol Sanchez hit a three for the White Tigers to knot the score at 65-65 with two minutes to play. A putback by Watkins with forty-five seconds left put West Oaks back in front. After a near-turnover and a timeout by Central Pointe, the White Tigers had one last chance to tie or win the game. Cartijo drove the lane and found Owen Aquino inside for a dunk with just two seconds left. West Oaks couldn’t stop the clock and the game headed to overtime tied at 67-67.
West Oaks took a four-point lead early in the overtime thanks to a putback from Faheim Meran and a mid-range jumper from Odom. Central Point got a bucket inside to get on the scoreboard but West Oaks got another basket from Meran to put the margin back to four. Central Point hit one of two free throws on their next possession and after an empty trip for the Flame, Gora Niang of Central Pointe got loose for a dunk inside to get the White Tigers to within one with one minute left in the OT. After a West Oaks miss, Sanchez gave Central Pointe the lead at 74-73 with a putback with thirty-five seconds left to play. West Oaks was able to draw a foul but missed the front end of the one-and-one. West Oaks got a steal on the next possession but turned the ball over. The Flame now fouled to get the ball back. Central Pointe missed the front end of the one-and-one but there was less than two seconds left and West Oaks could only attempt a shot from beyond half-court that was well-off. The White Tigers of Central Pointe clawed their way to a 74-73 win.
Central Point was led by Sanchez with 25 points while Cartijo contributed 20 points.
For West Oaks, Odom led the way with 20 points while Meran contributed 17 points.
We must admit we were impressed the play of Central Points’ 6’8 senior Aquino. He came off the bench to contribute 9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Aquino had some short drives that finished in slams, showed good hands in catching the ball in traffic, controlled his rebounding area, and surprised with his ability to not only find cutters to the basket but deliver soft, catchable passes. He’s got a decent frame and is a good athlete that competes hard every possession.
Odom continues to make observers sit up and take notice. To go along with his twenty points, he grabbed eight rebounds and corralled six steals. He is very good off the dribble in creating space to take and make mid-range jumpers. His perimeter shot from beyond the three-point line continues to improve and his nose for the ball on the defensive end is simply uncanny.