E.A. Sports Today

Right on schedule

From a young team with a mostly new mix around Whitfield to county and area champions, Oxford’s girls hitting stride.

Oxford’s girls, the 2024 Class 6A, Area 13 champions. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Monday scoreboard

Anniston 59, Talladega 30
White Plains 66, Cherokee County 44
Jacksonville 62, Cleburne County 52
Glencoe 79, Ohatchee 49
Faith Christian 60, Wadley 56
Oxford 45, Gadsden City 31
Woodland 28, Pleasant Valley 20

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

GADSDEN — Oxford’s girls have gone through an evolution of labels this season, starting with “young.”

The latest status update?

Right on schedule.

Most valuable player Xai Whitfield led three Yellow Jackets in double figures with 13 points and played smothering defense in stretches, downing host and top seed Gadsden City 45-31 in Monday’s Class 6A, Area 13 final.

Less than a month after winning its third consecutive Calhoun County title as the No. 2 seed, Oxford is area champion and subregional host, set to play Huffman-Gardendale loser.

Tentatively, they’ll play Friday at 6 p.m. on Larry Davidson Court.

“It you asked anybody on this team, coaches or players, November or even on into December, this was kind of a far-off goal,” Oxford coach Melissa Bennett said. “We knew there was a lot of talent, but having to bring that much age difference together, with that many new people on a team together?

“I’m super proud of them.”

Just 10 days after losing 37-31 at Gadsden City in a game that determined the area host, Oxford scored the first 14 points and led 16-2 after the first quarter. 

What was the difference?

“Just the energy,” said freshman guard Ava Thomas, an all-tournament pick with 11 points. “The season was about to come to an end if we don’t start winning.”

This despite Gadsden City doing all it could to get the ball out of Whitfield’s hands.

No problem. Thomas and all-tourney pick Shay Montgomery each scored four first-quarter points. So did Jordyn McRae.

They lit up Oxford’s side of the scoreboard while Gadsden City slowed Whitfield to two first-quarter points.

New talent developing around Whitfield, a two-time all-state player and Tennessee State signee, has keyed Oxford’s improvement.

“That’s good, especially from early in the season,” Whitfield said. “Everyone’s stepping up at the right time.”

Montgomery scored 10 points, and all-tourney pick JaMea Gaston added seven as Oxford backed up its 55-40 victory over Fort Payne with a victory over the area’s top seed.

“The whole tournament, we played with really great energy,” Bennett said. “That energy really carried over, whoever was on the floor.”

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