E.A. Sports Today

Oxford denied

Yellow Jackets fall to Parker in rematch of last year’s Northeast Regional semifinals, but were in it for duration

Oxford’s Braden Mack (23) puts up a shot and hopes its high enough to get over Parker’s tournament MVP Xavier Williams and find the hoop. To view a photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com(Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — It wasn’t nearly as bad as the year before, but that didn’t keep it from hurting any less.

Oxford got a rare chance at redemption in the Class 6A Northeast Regional finals Tuesday against Parker. The Yellow Jackets played a whole lot better this time, but eventually fell 60-49, coming up short for the second year in a row in their bid to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.

“A loss is a loss; you’re not getting any brownie points for it being closer,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “However, I do feel like we were better this year. I felt like we competed harder. Just watching the film from last year I thought maybe the moment or the environment affected us a little bit where this year I didn’t think it affected us at all.”

The Jackets scored only 25 points in last year’s game against the Thundering Herd here; they had 25 at halftime Tuesday.

Van Meter said the difference was the comfortable level with the stage that wasn’t there a year ago. Herd coach Reginald McGary said last year’s Parker team had seven seniors where Tuesday’s team had only two players who played in last year’s regional final.

Whatever the reason, the Jackets (20-12) came out with an energy that said they weren’t going to do that again and led by eight points after Markise Davis’ 3-pointer 15 seconds into the second quarter.

“Our energy was very high and we were playing defense very well,” freshman Rok Taylor said. “We started lacking on defense and it cost us.”

It was tied at 25, then Parker started getting run-out baskets and scored the last nine points of the quarter – seven by MVP Xavier Williams and Kambree Johnson – to take a 34-25 halftime lead. Williams and Johnson scored 18 points apiece in the game.

The Jackets did most of their damage from the outside, partly by design and partly to stay away from Williams inside, but Parker offset it by hitting a higher percentage of shots. Williams also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots.

The Herd (24-8) shot 63 percent from the field; they were 9-of-10 in the second quarter. Oxford hit eight of 21 3-pointers, but shot only 38 percent overall.

Once the Herd got the lead, they started slowing the tempo and actually opened a 15-point lead with 5:23 to play. Oxford got it back to single digits with less than a minute and a half to go and were within seven with 51 seconds left, but couldn’t collect the loose balls down the stretch to turn the tide.

“They had enough plays to stay ahead of us today,” Van Meter said. “When it counted they made the plays they needed to make to win the game. I think we were maybe two possessions away from really making it a game, but they did a great job of taking care of it and capitalizing whenever they had the opportunity at the rim. At the end of the day we didn’t make enough shots and get enough stops.”

Davis, Roc Taylor and Mack scored 10 points each for the Jackets. Davis and Taylor made the all-tournament team.

Despite the loss, the Yellow Jackets came away from the game with a sense that getting to the regional finals – and beyond – will be the expectation going forward.

“I think maybe last year they’re not real sure if we belonged here; this year we knew we belonged and I think that’s why you saw the difference,” Van Meter said. “You don’t just show up and get to Birmingham; it’s a process.

“Last year was our first experience with the process, this is our second. Hopefully it becomes expectation to get to this point and further. I really feel like the culture now is we should be here. We should be competing for a chance at making the Final Four. And the more times you’re here, the more opportunities you give yourself.”

Parker 60, Oxford 49
PARKER (24-8) –
Kambree Johnson 6-10 3-6 18, Kamaron Owens 2-5 0-1 4, Zachary Webb 0-0 0-0 0, Xavier Williams 7-13 4-4 18, Jason King 4-5 2-2 10, Amari Phillips 2-2 0-0 4, Jamarcus June 0-0 0-0 0, Tavion Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Isiah Anthony 0-0 0-0 0, Phidarius Pittman 3-3 0-1 6, JahShawn Banks 0-0 0-0 0, Dorien Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Tavaris Bell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-38 9-14 60.

OXFORD (20-12) – Markise Davis 4-9 0-0 10, Rok Taylor 4-9 1-2 10, Kendrick Foster 2-7 0-2 5, Eugene Leonard 1-5 2-2 5, Braden Mack 3-10 2-2 10, Simeon Shadrix 0-0- 0-0 0, Mont McClendon 4-6 0-0 9, Caden Higgins 0-0 0-0 0, Kobe Warren 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 5-8 49.

Parker 10 24 15 11 — 60
Oxford 15 10 11 13 — 49

3-point goals: Parker 3-9 (Johnson 3-5, Owens 0-2, X. Williams 0-2); Oxford 8-21 (Davis 2-5, Taylor 1-3, Foster 1-4, Leonard 1-1, Mack 2-5, McClendon 1-3). Rebounds: Parker 25 (X. Williams 7); Oxford 23 (Davis 8). Fouled out: Foster. Total fouls: Parker 10, Oxford 16. Officials: Jason Tidwell, McKenzie Marbury, Brian McCollum.

Oxford’s Kendrick Foster (10) gets way up in the air to stop Parker’s Zachary Webb in his tracks. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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