E.A. Sports Today

Warriors pull away from Oxford

Wester’s only field goal of the game touches off an 8-0 run in the third quarter that gives Cherokee County lead for good

Oxford guard Eugene Leonard scored a double-double against Cherokee County. On the cover, Warriors guard Joel Wester makes his move to the basket. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

Oxford guard Eugene Leonard scored a double-double against Cherokee County. On the cover, Warriors guard Joel Wester makes his move to the basket. (Photos by Shannon Fagan)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

CENTRE – Even when Joel Wester isn’t leading his team in scoring he still finds a way to be an influence on the game.

Wester, Cherokee County’s star senior guard, was held to six points Saturday by Oxford defensive whiz Jalen Moore and scoreless in the first half. But his first – and only – basket of the game, a scoop lay-up with 1:49 left in the third quarter, touched off the run that propelled the Warriors to a 58-49 victory.

Even though Wester didn’t score much in the game, he was there in so many other ways. Everything ran through him. He handled the ball against the press, got it to the precise player on the inbounds play (producing at least three buckets Saturday) and was generally the calming influence on the floor.

“He’s one of the keys to our team — he’s not the only one, but he’s one of them — and he does a lot of things for us that don’t show up (in the box score),” said Cherokee County coach Neal Wester, Joel’s dad. “He does a lot of little things that really are big things.

“Even on nights when he has struggled shooting the ball, he’ll make a big one or he’ll make a big play for us. He does a lot of good things for us.”

Joel Wester’s basket came after back-to-back buckets by Eugene Leonard got the Yellow Jackets to 37-35. It touched off a 10-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter and pushed the Warriors’ lead to 12 points.

“I thought we did a great job on him,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “I think Jalen is as good a defender as there is in our area; he takes it as a challenge whenever we put him on the best perimeter guy the other team has every game.

“I thought he did a great job last night against (Jacksonville’s) Cam Horton (Friday) outside of the fourth quarter shots he hit kind of loose. So, I was pleased with the way we played against Wester, who is a good player.

“What I wasn’t pleased about was our energy level the entire night. I just thought we didn’t play with passion. We played like we played last night and had to get up today and come play a game and weren’t really that enthralled about playing.”

That lethargy was evident in the third quarter when the sixth-ranked 4A Warriors (19-5) pulled away from a tied game to lead for the rest of the night.

Oxford (16-10) closed the gap to six with 2:46 to play, but the Warriors sealed the game with six free throws – the first two and last two by Wester.

“We talked in several timeouts about the energy level and the passion to be on the floor and we just didn’t get it,” Van Meter said. “And when you don’t get it, you’re going to get beat – especially on the road to a good team.”

There was no disputing Leonard’s passion for the game. The freshman point guard had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds; he also had four assists and three steals. Jakolbie McClendon was the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer with 13 points.

Tyren Dupree led Cherokee County with 15 points and eight rebounds; he was 5-for-5 from the foul line in the second half. Quartez Henderson had 14 points and six rebounds; he hit three 3-pointers.

Cherokee County 58, Oxford 49

OXFORD – Torry Robertson 3 0-0 9, Jalen Moore 3 0-0 7, Jakolbie McClendon 6 1-2 13, Jacob Baker 0 0-0 0, Eugene Leonard 2 7-8 11, Andrew Pratt 0 0-0 0, Jordan Swain 0 1-2 1, Braden Jones 3 2-6 8, Zach Lackey 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-18 49.

CHEROKEE COUNTY – Justin McKnight 1 3-4 6, Jacob Graves 2 0-0 5, Kyle Burgess 0 0-0 0, Chris Roden 3 2-3 8, Colin Edwards 1 0-1 2, Jaren Lockridge 0 0-0 0, Joel Wester 1 4-9 6, Tyren Dupree 4 7-9 15, Nehem Horton 1 0-0 2, Quartez Henderson 5 1-2 14. Totals 18 17-28 58.

Oxford 10 19 6 14 — 49
Cherokee Co. 12 15 18 13 — 58

3-point goals: Oxford 4 (Robertson 3, Moore); Cherokee County 5 (McKnight, Graves, Henderson 3). Fouled out: Moore. Total fouls: Oxford 21, Cherokee County 19. Officials: Dupree, Higdon, Graves.

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