E.A. Sports Today

Playoff preview?

Yellow Jackets light up scoreboard, but need late push after Fort Payne rallies to score fifth straight victory

Zondrick Garrett drops a free throws that gets Oxford closer to 100 and farther from Fort Payne Friday night. On the cover, Ty Davis expresses the relief of a hard-earned win. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Seven of eight available Oxford players scored in double figures but the Yellow Jackets had to withstand a 16-1 fourth-quarter assault by Fort Payne before taking a 99-90 victory Friday night at Larry Davidson Court.

The ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets (20-9) were without starter Markise Davis for the second straight game with an ankle injury, but had no problems creating offense as every player available scored and only one did not get to double figures.

It was the closest they have ever come to scoring 100 points at the Oxford Sports Arena according to athletics director and former coach Larry Davidson. They had their chances in the final seconds, but elected to hold the ball instead of adding a potential lay-up that would have put them over the century mark.

Freshman Zondrick Garrett (15 points, 10 rebounds) and junior Braden Mack (14/10) had double-doubles for the Jackets in a game that featured two regular-season area champions and may have been a preview of a Northeast Regional matchup at Jacksonville State in a couple weeks. The Jackets won big at Fort Payne earlier this year to sweep the season series.

“I am worn out,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “Those guys are really good. It was a game of survival out there tonight. They were not ready for us at their place earlier in the season, but they were ready tonight. That Wayna King is something else.”

King led all scorers and five Fort Payne players in double figures with 30.

The game went in spurts as the Jackets would pull away and back would come the Wildcats (21-8).

Oxford opened a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter as Simeon Shadrix buried three 3-pointer in a manner of a couple of minutes. The Jackets would extend the lead to 84-69 midway through the final quarter on a tomahawk dunk by Ty Davis, but after the big Fort Payne run were fortunate to have an 88-87 lead with 2:17 to play.

Shadrix stepped it up once again as he nailed a 3-pointer from the corner. A couple of steals and layups and all of a sudden the Jackets were up 94-88 with a little over a minute to go.

The Jackets have won five in a row and nine of their last 10 – the loss was by one point – and six of those games have been wins over ranked teams. They are averaging 76 points a game during this span and could have had a higher number had the clock been stopping in some of the fourth quarters of some big wins by more than 30 points.

Oxford, ranked for the first time all season, wraps up its regular season this afternoon against Homewood.

“We are really excited to get the next part of our season,” Van Meter said. “We’ve got to finish well against Homewood, but I’m just ready to see how far we can go.”

Oxford 99, Fort Payne 90
FORT PAYNE (21-8) –
Wayna King 12 4-7 30, Keon Walker 2 0-0 4, Joshua Baine 4 1-2 10, Colton Wells 6 1-1 16, Kevin Hightower 1 0-0 3, Nathan Waites 3 1-1 10, Alexander Bynum 1 3-4 6, Ty Brooks 6 0-0 11. Totals 35 10-15 90.

OXFORD (20-9) – Jakolbe McClendon 5 2-4 12, Simeon Shadrix 4 0-0 12, Kendrick Foster 4 0-0 10, Eugene Leonard 4 5-7 13, Zondrick Garrett 6 3-4 15, Braden Mack 6 2-4 14, Ty Davis 9 1-1 19, Caden Higgins 2 0-0 4. Totals 40 13-20 99.

Fort Payne 22 21 22 25 — 90
Oxford 25 24 23 27 — 99

3-point goals: Fort Payne 13 (King 2, Baine, Wells 3, Hightower, Waites 3, Bynum, Brooks 2); Oxford 6 (Shadrix 4, Foster 2).

Oxford’s Eugene Leonard (12), Zondrick Garrett (15) and Jakolbe McClendon (3) try to keep up with Fort Payne leading scorer Wayna King. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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