Mar 05, 2019
(Scott M. Burnstein for MediaNews Group)
Disney's Magic Kingdom has nothing on the one Oxford's constructed on the boys basketball court this winter.
The Wildcats are stacking crowns amid a magical campaign. All hail the new king.
Oxford rallied to take a 39-32 victory in a Division 1 district final Friday against host Lake Orion, advancing past the first week of state tournament play for the first time in 26 years. The last district championship for the program came in 1993. Last week, Oxford (22-1) bagged a league title out of the OAA Blue.
On Friday, Wildcats star junior forward Trey Townsend's turn-around jumper from the left baseline with 1:12 remaining proved to be the game-winner, breaking a 32-32 deadlock and giving his team its first lead since early in the second quarter. An identical shot by Townsend at the third-quarter horn brought Oxford within two at 28-26. His pull-up jumper from the foul line opened the fourth and foreshadowed things to come.
"You've got to want the ball in situations like that and I wanted the ball in my hands with the game on the line," Townsend said. "You dream of hitting big shots down the stretch in a game like this when you're a young kid and tonight my dreams came true."
Townsend went for 14 points and eight rebounds in the contest. Mike Raisch, the Wildcats' do-it-all senior center, contributed 11 points and six rebounds. Raisch's two free throws with 32 ticks on the clock made it 36-32. A pair at the line by Townsend in the waning moments of the game iced the win.
Oxford guards, Logan Coughlin and Noah Hiler, came away with critical steals in the closing minute to prevent Lake Orion from making any last-gasp noise.
"These guys played their hearts out," Wildcats head coach Steve Laidlaw said. "Our defense really kept us in it tonight because we were struggling hitting our shots there for a while. But we relaxed later in the game and let things come to us, instead of forcing them. Trey made a few very big plays when we needed it. That's why he is a big-time player."
Laidlaw is in his second stint on the bench for Oxford. He returned three years ago. In 1993, he was an assistant on the Wildcats last district championship squad.
The ultra-competitive nature of the Lake Orion district bodes well for his team going forward in Laidlaw's mind.
"This was just a beast of a district, we knew what we were in store for and we went out and got the job done," he said. "I think it should help us in the regionals."
The Lake Orion district consisted of all three OAA division champs (Clarkston from the Red, Rochester Adams from the White and Oxford from the Blue). Adams upset two-time defending state champion Clarkston back on Monday in the district opener prior to falling to Lake Orion Wednesday in a lopsided affair.
Lake Orion wraps up its season with a 13-9 mark. Wayne State-bound center Nate Talbot tallied a team-high 12 points to go with eight rebounds to lead the Dragons, who held Oxford to a paltry 4-of-26 from the field in the first half to go ahead 14-11 at the break.
"We had a difficult time scoring the basketball in the fourth quarter, that hurt us," said Lake Orion head coach Jim Manzo, also in his second stint pacing the sidelines for his respective squad. "Going home tonight, this will be a tough one to swallow for everybody. Oxford's 22-1 for a reason and it showed when it counted."
Oxford will face Milford (15-7) in a regional semifinal at Howell Tuesday. Milford upset Walled Lake Northern (20-3) in a district final at Lakeland.
(Photo Cred. - TZR Sports)