E.A. Sports Today


After feeling Jacksonville’s flex a week ago, Oxford boys resume flexing for 6A Area 13 title and chance to play subregional at home

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Flexing favors those who flex. It’s those flexed upon who feel perplexed.

Watching film of a week-old, 38-point loss to Jacksonville left a fast-growing Oxford team perplexed.

“We went in the film room and put up a picture of them, like, flexing on us and disrespecting us,” rising-star freshman guard Jaylen Alexander said. “It kind of pissed us off a little.”

Oxford flexed to start and end its Class 6A Area 13 final with Gadsden City on Friday, rolling 71-54 to reach .500 for the second time this season but earn a shot to play a subregional game at home.

Oxford (14-14) will play Saturday’s loser between Mountain Brook and Shades Valley on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Larry Davidson Court. The Yellow Jackets stand one victory away from their seventh Northeast Regional berth in seven years.

That’s called situation normal for the program, situation new for a team whose season journey reads like a coming of age. 

Oxford lost four seniors from last season and began the season with two players who had played in a varsity game. The young Jackets felt the flexing of a murderous schedule en route to a 6-13 record only to win eight of the last nine games.

That run includes a 54-53 victory over Gadsden City on Jan. 27, decided on eighth-grader Marcus Perry’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win Oxford the right to play host to the area tournament.

Oxford won that game without guard T.J. Allen, who sat out with COVID-19, and senior Brett Reaves, who’s recovering from a broken jaw suffered in the Calhoun County tournament.

Oxford’s late-season flex also included what was widely seen as an upset of top seed Jacksonville in the county final, though the Yellow Jackets won their fifth consecutive county title.

Then came the thud … Jacksonville 82, Oxford 44 on Feb. 3 to end the regular season, say nothing of a seven-game winning streak.

The film looked ugly, say nothing of that whole flexing thing. Oxford had a week to think about it, and that week ended with Oxford coach Joel Van Meter knowing when to blow his whistle.

“We had our best 25 to 30 minutes of practice yesterday,” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I was like, ‘We need to get out of here, before we mess something up.”

It carried into Friday’s area final. Alexander and Jayden Lewis scored 19 points apiece, and Oxford hit 10 3-pointers.

The Yellow Jackets hit five threes while building as much as a 22-4 lead to start the game. Then came the 14-2 run, right after Gadsden City’s Steve Jones scored consecutive putbacks to bring the Titans within 45-43 in the fourth quarter.

The locked-in part accounted for the hot start. Defense and Alexander’s late-game takeover took care of the rest.

As for defense, Van Meter credited Caleb Sanders and Christian Gibson for setting the tone.

“We gave up 30 points in the first half, and there were times when we didn’t guard the ball,” Van Meter said. “When we guarded the ball, we were fine. There were more times in the second half where we did a better job of guarding the ball.

“Caleb Sanders and Cristian Gibson in the first half were tremendous at guarding the ball, and Caleb continued in the second half. I think Cristian got a little fatigued, but those two guys guarding the ball changed the game.”

As for Alexander the Great, he was greatest in the decisive run. He scored seven of the 14 points, highlighted by a lunging floater to make it 57-45. He’d lost his dribble with his back to the basket, couldn’t find an open teammate, pivoted around and lunged from the foul line, getting the ball just over the front of the rim.

“He can see some things that are going on and how they’re guarding certain things,” Van Meter said. “Then he makes something out of nothing.

“Him and Jay (Lewis), when they play like that, we’re going to be pretty good.”

Lewis, a 6-foot-4 leaping “Manchild,” as he’s known, did his thing around the rim. He also made two of Oxford’s five 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Just more signs of a team ready to regain its flex.

“We were locked in, mentally, and you have to give the kids a lot of credit,” Van Meter said. “Coming off last Friday night, I think there were a lot of lessons learned. …

“Get embarrassed on your home floor, last game of the season, take some things for granted and learn from it and be able to bounce back, I think, speaks volumes to who they are as people.” 

GADSDEN CITY – Matthew Lucas 1 0-0 2, Steven Jones 6 3-4 15, Kahlil Hughley 3 0-0 8, K. Curry 2 0-0 4, Jordan Walker 4 3-3 11, John Roberts 3 1-2 7, Malik Deramus 1 0-0 2, Jakobi Sharp 1 1-2 3, Qwon Bridges 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 8-11 54.
OXFORD – Jaylen Alexander 6 6-8 19, Caleb Sanders 3 2-4 10, Deshaun Calloway 2 0-0 5, T.J. Allen 4 2-2 13, Jayden Lewis 7 3-3 19, Marcus Perry 2 0-0 5. Totals 24 13-17 71.

Gadsden City 221311 – 54
Oxford23121521 – 71

3-point goals: Gadsden City 2 (Hughley 2), Oxford 10 (Allen 3, Sanders 2, Lewis 2, Alexander, Calloway, Perry). Total fouls: Gadsden City 14, Oxford 15.

The Class 6A, Area 13 all-tournament team, from left: Oxford’s Jayden Lewis, Jaylen Alexander and T.J. Allen plus Gadsden City’s Jordan Walker (5) and Steve Jones. Not pictured is Fort Payne’s Luke Stephens. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Cover photo: Oxford’s players and coaches celebrate their Class 6A, Area 13 title on Friday on Larry Davidson Court. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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