E.A. Sports Today

Taking their best

Oxford heads to Northeast Regional at JSU for third year in a row with a team its coach is calling their best yet

Oxford’s Zondrick Garrett (1) was locked in Tuesday night, scoring 27 points and grabbing 15 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets beat Buckhorn to reach the Class 6A Northeast Regional for the third year in a row. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from the game, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Joel VanMeter says without hesitation this will be the best team he has taken to the Class 6A Northeast Regionals.

“I think we’ve got all the pieces,” he said.

It’s basically the same group of players VanMeter has taken to Jacksonville each of the last two years and lost to Parker in the regional final. But what it has this year that sets it apart is two years of valuable postseason experience together, is more collectively connected than ever and has those pieces in all the right places that allow them to accentuate their individual talents.

The Yellow Jackets locked in their third straight trip to the regionals Tuesday with its season-best 11th straight win, 76-63 win over Buckhorn at the Sports Arena. They’ll play Huffman (21-7) in their regional opener Friday at 10:30 a.m.
“I just think it’s the best team that we’ve had,” VanMeter said. “I think we’ve got all the pieces.”

On this night, the Jackets (24-4) knew they had to exploit their advantage on the inside and did. Zondrick Garrett was locked in and loaded for the regionals; he had 27 points, 15 rebounds and blocked or altered numerous shots around the basket before fouling out with 90 seconds to play. Roc Taylor had 19 points.

Mont McClendon gave them 15 points, Eugene Leonard played his usual strong game with 12 points and six rebounds, and Kobe Warren didn’t let an active Bucks’ defense turn him over.

And every player VanMeter put on Bucks leading scorer Kuran Garner “stepped up to the challenge.” Garner did score 19 points, but they were scattered throughout the game.
“When we’re locked in we’re pretty good,” VanMeter said. “We’ve got some IQs that understand the importance of what we need to do to be successful. Our best game we’ve played all year in terms of mentally being locked in was Plainview. I thought we were right about that level tonight.”
Garrett figures he’s been locked in since about the Calhoun County Tournament. On this night, he had 17 points and seven rebounds at halftime as Oxford built a 36-22 lead. He even had a couple nifty assists. And then he scored the Jackets’ first eight points of the third quarter.

“Here’s what I’ll tell you about Zondrick,” VanMeter said. “It’s all about mentally. If mentally he’s locked in, he’s as good as there is, in my opinion, in this state. He was locked in today and we knew it.”
Garrett said he was “very locked in” to face the Bucks with a regional berth on the line.
“The whole day I was getting myself prepared for this game,” he said. “We want to make it to state. We all wanted to win, make it to the next level. I just had to make plays.”

Oxford 76, Buckhorn 63
BUCKHORN (25-7) –
Massiah Morris 1 0-0 2, Cam Barnes 1 0-0 2, Kuran Garner 6 4-4 19, Jalen Barnes 0 0-0 0, Brandon Davis 6 3-4 17, Austin Poindexter 1 0-0 3, Nylan Thomas 0 0-0 0, Kendall Humphrey 2 2-3 6, Zavien Causey 1 0-0 3, Malik Thompson 1 0-0 2, Jalon Chapman 3 3-4 9. Totals 22 12-15 63.
OXFORD (24-4) – Rylan Houck 0 0-0 0, Zondrick Garrett 8 10-12 27, Eugene Leonard 4 4-6 12, Mont McClendon 6 0-0 15, Kobe Warren 1 0-0 2, Roc Taylor 7 5-6 19, Cordell Chatman 0 0-0 0Justin Moore 0 1-2 1, Milas Jackson 0 0-0 0, Trafton Houck 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 20-26 76.
Buckhorn       12       10       20       21       –          63
Oxford            17       19       20       20       –          76
3-point goals: Buckhorn 7 (Garner 3, Davis 2, Poindexter, Causey); Oxford 4 (Garrett, McClendon 3); Fouled out: Garrett, Garner. Total fouls: Buckhorn 20, Oxford 15. Officials: Henderson, Scott, Burnham.

Roc Taylor (C) was the other half of Oxford’s dynamic duo inside Tuesday night. Taylor and Zondrick Garrett combined for 46 points in the Jackets’ 76-63 victory. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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