Vanguard vs. St. Francis: #TheRAWEFive
By Jerome Reed
The Ocala-Vanguard Knights opened up their season with a Friday night matchup vs Gainesville-St. Francis—and you could tell they were ready to hit the hardwood. The home team Wolves fought hard, especially in the fourth, but Vanguard came away with the 78-70 road win. Check out the few who made an impact on the game.
Aaron James Jr. - Vanguard: This 5’10” senior guard is nothing short of electric on the floor. James Jr. can get out in-transition and orchestrate the offense with the best of them. He’s a great passer, can hit the midrange jumper & the trey-ball, and plays exceptional on-ball defense. He forced a couple of turnovers in the process. If players try to drive it to the rim on him, James Jr. is capable of getting a clean block without fouling. He finished with 16 points, and has earned a few offers, already. Expect to hear of a few more by March.
Aidan Newman - St. Francis: Newman is an absolute SCORER. This 5’11” senior guard scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half, including a 14-point explosion in the fourth quarter that kept the Knights on their heels. He hit six treys. He went 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Newman’s quickness is deceiving, as he’s capable of getting to the rack off-the-drive and finishing with contact. Newman could be considered as one of the best scorers in North Central Florida.
Josiah Kiner - Vanguard: Another marksman from deep, this senior wingman lit it up from beyond the arc hitting four treys & finishing with 16 points. One of those threes came at the end of the first half, after he snagged the rebound with eight seconds left, raced down-court, crossed-up a defender, and banked in the long-ball with one second to spare. Kiner has the ability to hit it from anywhere from outside, hand in his face or not. Look out for him as the season progresses.
Ashton Lovette - St. Francis: Only a junior, Lovette has established himself as another scoring leader for the Wolves. This 6’3” wing player was aggressive from the tip, using his frame to will himself to the bucket, earn tough and-ones, and get to the foul line. He went 9-of-10 from the stripe, and scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half. Lovette notched 25 without scoring a three—somewhat rare for today’s HS wingman. Expect Ash to be a pivotal player for St. Francis the entire season.
Demetrius Watts - Vanguard: This 2022 wing didn’t have a crazy scoring night, but his basketball IQ was noticed throughout the game. Though he finished with five points, including one trey, his defense shined above that. Watts is a stout on-ball defender, and uses his length to his advantage while disrupting ball-handlers. If he’s getting trapped on the wing or in the corner, he’s capable of making the skip-pass to the open man for a possible easy bucket. Watts has the making of a great glue guy.