E.A. Sports Today

Oxford comes up short

Missed opportunities, slow fourth quarter end Yellow Jackets’ historic season in regional semifinals

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MOUNTAIN BROOK — All season long the Oxford basketball team has stormed through the door when teams have given them an opportunity to charge.

It’s the reason the Yellow Jackets won 25 games in a row and were knocking on the door of a 30-win season.

But when they needed to be their sharpest, they weren’t able to do that Friday night and fell to Mountain Brook 58-48 in the Class 6A Northeast Regional semifinals.

The Yellow Jackets finish their season at 29-3, tied with the 1962 team for the second most wins in school history.

The Jackets went into the fourth quarter with a 42-40 lead after trailing for most of the tight game. But the Spartans opened the quarter with the first 11 points and Oxford never recovered.

The Jackets did get it to within 51-48 on Payton Watts’ 3-pointer with 1:34 to play, but the Spartans closed out the game going 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 40 seconds.

“If you take advantage of the opportunities that we had then there’s less pressure on you in the fourth quarter,” Oxford coach Joel VanMeter said. “We allowed them to get what they’re trying to get about six or seven times and that’s corner 3s and we didn’t do a good enough job and that’s on me.

“It’s hard to get kids to understand that those possessions are the difference between winning and losing a game. But give (Mountain Brook) all the credit because they took advantage of every opportunity they got. Great teams make those plays and they made those plays.”

One key stretch for the Jackets came midway through the third quarter when Justin Moore was intentionally fouled on a dunk that got Oxford within two. The Jackets could have gotten as many as seven points out of the exchange but only managed the initial two.

Rayven Turner made them pay for missing out, basically turning it into a 10-point swing by hitting one of those corner 3s to put Mountain Brook up 32-27 with 4:36 left in the quarter.

“That was a huge swing,” VanMeter said. “If you get six out of it well that puts them on their heels a bunch. You get two, they’re like ‘phew, we escaped that.’”

And then there was some dumb luck. Twice in the second half the Jackets blocked Mountain Brook shots at the net – once by Moore and once by Rylan Houck – and both times the ball caromed through the goal.

Moore did tie the game later in the quarter with a 3 and Roc Taylor gave the Jackets leads of 36-34 and 38-36 on their next two possessions. Houck hit a shot right before the buzzer to give the Jackets a 42-40 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they didn’t score again until Josh Patton’s 3-point with 2:02 left in the game.

By then, the Spartans had a scored on five straight possession for a 51-42 lead.

“Oxford is by far the best team we’ve played this year, and we’ve played some good ones,” Spartans coach Tyler Davis said. “We told (his players) at halftime I fully expect them to take the lead and that’s where we have to step up with our mental toughness and not let that happen to where we become fearful. We just have to continue to keep grinding and doing what we do and try and get over the hump.”

Moore led the Jackets with 17 points on 8-of-17 shooting and nine rebounds. Taylor finished with 13 points and six boards and withstood the taunts of the Mountain Brook student section directed at his football recruiting situation. The Spartans held Houck to four points and only seven shots.

“They made more plays than us,” Moore said. “They made the plays that we had to make and every mistake we made they capitalized on.”

Oxford may have faced pressure before this year, but nothing like what Mountain Brook threw at it.

The Spartans pressed the Jackets from the minute they stepped on the floor. Shots and inbounds plays were hard to come by.

Mountain Brook forced Oxford into 11 turnovers in the first half, off which it scored 14 points on the way to a 25-21 halftime lead. (So Oxford’s on-the-ball defense was pretty good, too).

“We have played people who’ve come at us, but not as hard as they did,” Taylor said. “We handled it well all the way through to the fourth quarter and then we started getting lazy.”

If the Yellow Jackets didn’t know what was coming, they got a pretty good taste on the opening play of the game. The defense was so tight on the inbounds, the Jackets had to throw a baseball pass towards Moore on the baseline and the ball was too hot to handle and went out of bounds.

The Yellow Jackets were in catch-up mode the whole half. They got it back to 14-12 early in the second quarter then the Spartans got a 3-pointer and traditional three-point play off Oxford turnovers and it was an eight-point game with four minutes left in the half.

Mountain Brook 58, Oxford 48
OXFORD (29-3) –
Cordell Chatman 0 0-0 0, Rylan Houck 2 0-1 4, Peyton Watts 2 0-0 6, Mike McGraw 1 0-0 2, Roc Taylor 6 0-2 13, Bakari Dailey 0 0-0 0, Justin Moore 8 0-2 17, Josh Patton 2 0-0 6, Kyler Wright 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 0-5 48.
MOUNTAIN BROOK – Paulson Wright 4 2-2 12, Ty Davis 0 0-0 0, Bo Barber 4 4-5 12, Julius Clark 1 0-0 2, Graham Matthews 0 0-0 0, Rayven Turner 5 4-5 15, John Brown 0 0-0 0, Sims Brown 0 0-0 0, Colby Blackwell 1 0-0 2, Dive Rowe 1 0-0 3, Mac Swoger 2 0-2 4, Charlie Mckimmon 3 0-0 6. Totals 21 10-14 58.
Oxford                                     9   12   21     6    –   48
Mountain Brook                 14   11   15   18    –   58
3-point goals: Oxford 6 (Watts 2, Taylor, Moore, Patton 2); Mountain Brook 6 (Wright 2, Barber 2, Turner, Rowe). Total fouls: Oxford 21, Mountain Brook 12. Officials: Oden, Richards, Wood.

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