The defending Class 4A champions outscored Oxford 22-8 after the Yellow Jackets tied the game at 32 early in the third quarter of their Calhoun County Tournament quarterfinal, and the Golden Eagles held on through Oxford’s frenetic run late in the fourth quarter to survive 64-61 in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Second-seeded Jacksonville (16-4) advanced to today’s 2:30 p.m. semifinal against Piedmont (18-5) at Alexandria High School. Piedmont beat No. 6 Ohatchee 57-15 on Friday.
Jacksonville lost star point guard Lacey Buchanon off the first girls’ team from Calhoun County to win a state championship but returns four starters. Sharon Osterbind, Kenyatta Ervin and Virginia Poe, stars from last year’s title run, combined for 37 points.
Ervin had 15 points and 12 rebounds, Osterbind 13 points despite foul troubles and Poe nine points to go with a key steal down the stretch.
Angel Kidd, who moved from shooting guard to Buchanon’s position, led Jacksonville with 19 points and five assists. She hit a free throw with 15.7 seconds left to provide the final margin.
Jacksonville drew on its experiences through last year’s postseason run and forced two key turnovers in the final 35 seconds, after Oxford went on a 10-0 run to draw within 63-61.
“It helps us a lot,” Kidd said. “It shows us how to keep going in the last quarter and push it to the end.”
Seventh-seeded Oxford (5-14), which lost to Jacksonville 65-42 on Nov. 20 and 61-52 on Dec. 22, took advantage of a break to push the Golden Eagles. This because Osterbind had to sit after mysteriously drawing her third foul in the second quarter.
Officials originally called the foul on Ervin, who wears jersey number 23, but Ervin was on the bench. Officials then settled on Osterbind.
Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless said the foul should have been called on Dasia Kirksey, who wears jersey No. 32.
With Osterbind on the bench, the Yellow Jackets rode Casmine Copeland and Jasmine Carter while outscoring Jacksonville 20-16 in the second quarter to close to within 32-28 at halftime.
Carter — who finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight steals — then scored the first two buckets after the break to tie the game at 6:54 of the third quarter.
How did Oxford make its second-quarter run?
“Osterbind was on the bench,” Oxford coach Tonya Peoples said. “That’s about as honest as I can be.”
But Oxford made its fourth-quarter run with Osterbind in the game, however.
“We ran a little zone trap that really locked up on her,” Peoples said. “She’s key to the things that they do. We just tried to alter that and, hopefully, make them go through somebody else.”
The Yellow Jackets closed to within 63-61 on a quick sequence that featured a Carter basket, Jacksonville turnover and Copeland jumper.
Copeland finished with 21 points and four assists.
“They made us turn the ball over there and made a lot of good shots right there,” Chambless said. “They picked it up in the last couple of minutes there, and we kind of got a little stagnant there, especially on press breaker, and I called a couple of timeouts I shouldn’t have.”
Oxford had a chance to tie after Carter tapped and retrieved Osterbind’s inbounds pass. Oxford called timeout to set up a play, but Poe knocked the ball away from Oxford guard Lexi Higgins, and Ervin went to the floor for the loose ball.
That play resulted in Kidd going to the foul line, and she hit one of two shots to make it 64-61 with 15.7 seconds left.
Oxford had two more ill-fated possessions, with Carter drawing a charging foul and Higgins dribbling out of bounds under Jacksonville pressure. The latter turnover led to Osterbind getting fouled and missing two free throws with 1.7 seconds left, but Oxford couldn’t get off a shot before the buzzer.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” Chambless said. “I think that helped us tonight, for sure.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.