E.A. Sports Today

Oxford overcomes adversity

Coach benches 2 starters, but McClendon and Jackets step up to meet the challenge

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Joel Van Meter is going to do what’s best for his team and his players for the long haul, even if the short term solution and result seems painful.

The veteran coach had to discipline two of his starters for Oxford’s opening-round game in the Calhoun County Boys Tournament Monday and it looked early on like the move would be costly. But the Yellow Jackets pulled away over the last three quarters, thanks in large part to a 32-point run, and beat upset-minded Faith Christian 67-36.

Van Meter held out leading scorer Querrian Moore and senior point guard Kaleb Kidd, but their replacement starters, as well as Jakolbie McClendon and Jacob Baker all stood tall to keep the Jackets (8-15) from falling to a dangerous team.

“We’ve got something written up on our board from our FCA devotions called ‘Act Like Men,’” Van Meter said. “I think us coaches can sometimes get caught up a little too much into winning and losing instead of teaching these kids to act like men.

“I was reading the other day, the same day the deal happened with Mason. There was a kid at Memphis, Kuran Iverson, one of the top 50 players in America … they were having problems with him. The kid’s never been coached, he’s always done whatever he wanted to, he’s 6-9, 6-10. Well, they finally kick him off.

“I look at it this way: If he had a high school coach who made him act like he’s supposed to act, then when he goes to Memphis that’s not the first time he’s encountering it. So he’s gonna have something inside of him that helps him react to that in a positive way.

“I feel like if I don’t give it to them they’re not going to get it. It doesn’t matter if it’s college basketball, a job, whatever, if I allow them to not be held accountable, I’m not getting them to act like men.”

Moore’s discipline was the fallout from his boorish behavior in the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Chelsea in a potential area championship-clinching game Friday night. Kidd was benched for being late to shoot-around and failing to complete his discipline for that.

McClendon, meanwhile, acted like a man among boys on the floor. Stepping up for the second game in a row, he scored 20 points; he had 32 in the Chelsea game. Baker added 12 on four 3-pointers. Torry Robertson and Blaize Brimer started in place of Kidd and Moore, respectively, and upheld their end.

“I felt like I had to do more than what I normally do,” McClendon said. “It made me feel like a leader. I didn’t worry at all because I knew my teammates were going to help me.”

At the start of the game it looked like that discipline, while good for the long run, might be too much for the Yellow Jackets to overcome in the short term. The 1A Lions (15-9) played the 6A Jackets even with a five-out offense against the zone and actually led after the first quarter 18-14.

It was a different story the rest of the way. The Jackets scored 32 straight points at one point, holding the Lions to three points in the second quarter and scoreless from the first minute of the second to 3:21 left in the third.

“We quite attacking the rim and became too passive and just passed the ball too much,” Faith coach Bradley Dawson said. “We got them in foul trouble a little bit and for some reason couldn’t go to the rim after that.

“I thought Oxford stepped it up defensively the rest of the game. I thought we were ready to play and then became too dependent on jump shots and tried to outshoot them. We weren’t going to do that. We should’ve gotten to the rim more.”

The Lions had six baskets in the first quarter, but only six the rest of the game. They got 10 points apiece from Caleb McCord and Alex Taylor.

Regardless of the day’s outcome, Van Meter was certain the Yellow Jackets would get something out of the experience. It was just fortunate they were able to win and keep going. Mason and Kidd are expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday when the Jackets take on third-seeded host Sacred Heart in a rematch of last year’s semifinals.

“I thought this is going to be a great lesson one way or the other,” Van Meter said. “It’s going to be a great lesson because guys stepped in and were ready when some other guys let us down or some other guys let us down and because of that we weren’t going to get an opportunity to move on. Fortunately, guys were ready; they stepped up and made the plays they needed to make.”

Oxford 67, Faith Christian 36

FAITH CHRISTIAN (15-9) — Ryan Crosby 0 1-2 1, Jordan Griswold 0 4-4 4, Jameson Adams 0 0-0 0, Logan Williamson 2 0-0 6, Caleb McCord 4 2-4 10, Jack Sills 1 1-4 3, Michael Kulick 0 0-0 0, Josiah McDaniel 1 0-0 2, Alex Taylor 4 1-1 10, Julien Key 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 8-13 36.

OXFORD (8-15) — Jalen Moore 2 4-4 8, Jakolbie McClendon 7 3-3 20, Jacob Baker 4 0-0 12, Torry Robertson 3 3-4 9, Andrew Pratt 0 0-0 0, Dante Lauderdale 4 1-2 9, Chris Jarmon 1 0-0 2, Solomon Shadrix 0 0-0 0, Blaize Brimer 1 1-2 3, Zack Lackey 2 0-0 4. Totals 24 12-15 67.

Faith Christian 18 3 5 10 — 36
Oxford 14 19 23 11 — 67

3-point goals: Faith 3 (Williamson 2, Taylor); Oxford 7 (McClendon 3, Baker 4). Total fouls: Faith 13, Oxford 18. Officials: Smith, Askew, Files.

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