The Yellow Jackets planned prudently as to not suffer the same fate as No. 3 Saks did just a day before. Against Saks, White Plains exploited its opposition’s man-to-man defense and forced it into shooting long jumpers on the other end of the court.
The Yellow Jackets packed it on defense utilizing an aggressive matchup 2-3 zone defense and chose their shots wisely on offense playing from the inside out against the Wildcats.
“I knew they were small. I knew they were quick and I knew they were good,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “I felt like we could use our length against them in a zone.
“And we want to go into the post all the time. We want to get the ball inside. That’s from day one and our guys have bought into it.”
The Yellow Jackets were led once again by power forward Dion Hobdy, who led all scorers with 18 points.
With the win, the Yellow Jackets (11-8) advance to their second county tournament final in three years. They’ll take on No. 8 Piedmont for the championship tonight at 8 p.m. The Bulldogs pulled off yet another upset Friday with a 69-62 win against No. 4 Alexandria. Wednesday they knocked off top-seeded Anniston in a 10-point victory.
“They’re an extremely talented team and coach (Tommy) Lewis does a great job with them,” Van Meter said. “They’re on a roll. We’re going to have to come ready to play because and rebound the ball defensively. They fly all over the offensive boards and they can really run the floor. We’re going to have to contest their 3-pointer shooters.”
Friday night’s game had a similar feel to White Plains’ victory against Saks on the scoreboard through two quarters. The Class 3A Wildcats had more than a fighting chance at the half when they trailed the bigger, stronger, faster Yellow Jackets by just by just six at 25-19.
The Wildcats used hot start in the third to springboard themselves to a win against Saks and liked their chances against Class 6A Oxford at the same juncture.
“I always tell them that the first four minutes of the third quarter will decide the outcome of the game and I thought we could get it going like we did against Saks,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “It (the deficit) can either go from three to four it can go from nine to ten.”
It went to nine or 10 and we’re not built for that kind of comeback.”
Oxford extended its lead to 15 by the end of the three behind Hobdy, who put up 12 in the third quarter.
“He just gives us that spark,” Oxford point guard Justin Lawler said. “He’s our hypeman. You should see him in the locker room.”
Lawler set the tone for the Yellow Jackets early on. The sophomore controlled the tempo of the Yellow Jackets’ offense while looking more aggressively for his own shot.
Lawler scored seven in the first quarter and 12 in the game, doing all of his damage on offense in the first half.
“That was the game plan, to play from the inside out,” Lawler said. “Coach told me before the game to take shots I know I can make.”
Jackson Stephens had 10 points, including three 3-pointers for the Yellow Jackets and Kwon Alexander added nine. Dylan Randall led White Plains with 13. Cameron Burns had seven and Logan Giddens had six.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on twitter at birds_word.