Prep basketball: Oxford boys, girls see their seasons end
by Mark Edwards
Feb 08, 2014 | 2138 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GADSDEN -- After losing to Clay-Chalkville by 31 points a month ago, Oxford High's girls basketball team fell by only three in the rematch Friday night.

That didn't serve as any consolation for the Yellow Jackets, especially because the 38-35 defeat came in the Class 6A, Area 9 semifinals, ending Oxford's season at 14-12.

The Oxford players left their locker room at tournament host Gadsden City High with tears. Even Yellow Jackets coach Tonya Peoples exited with red eyes.

"Our goal was to play our hearts out and play for each other," Peoples said. "That's what we did, but we came up short."

After the January loss, Peoples installed a new game plan, especially on defense, to slow down the Cougars. It nearly worked as Oxford had its chance at the end. Trailing by three, the Yellow Jackets had three shots from behind the 3-point arc in the final 20 seconds, but none fell.

Oxford never trailed by more than five points all night. In the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets even took a one-point lead with about six minutes to play on senior Lexie Higgins' driving layup. Oxford had it tied once and was within one point three different times.

The Yellow Jackets did it behind a defensive plan aimed at limiting Tajana Thomas and Bria Bethea, who had combined for 48 points in the January loss. Also, when Clay-Chalkville won at Oxford in December by 12 points, the duo combined for 40 points.

This time, Thomas managed 10 points and Bethea eight for Clay-Chalkville (24-6).

"They executed the game plan," Peoples said. "There were no individuals. There was no selfishness. We had eight seniors who wanted to put on that jersey again, and they played their hearts out."

Senior Casmine Copeland finished with a team-high 11 points, including a 3-pointer in the first half that cut a Clay-Chalkville lead to a point. Higgins had seven points, with a pair of her baskets coming in the fourth quarter.

Senior Deanna Clark scored eight points, including Oxford's last basket of the night. She nailed a jumper with more than a minute to go, cutting Clay-Chalkville's lead to 33-32. Clay's Raven Omar sank a pair of foul shots with 32 seconds left to complete the scoring.

Clay-Chalkville boys 60, Oxford 39: In a 6A, Area 9 boys semifinals, the Yellow Jackets fell to the Cougars for the third time this year in three meetings.

Oxford fell behind 12-1 midway through the first quarter and struggled to get closer than eight after that. The Yellow Jackets cut it to nine at one point in the second quarter, only to watch Clay-Chalkville score seven straight points.

Oxford sliced it to eight in the second half, but the Cougars scored the next eight. And early in the fourth quarter, Oxford's Deon Wright sank a runner to slice the Clay lead to 10 at 43-33, but the Cougars responded by scoring nine in a row.

"I told our guys that we were like gnats," Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. "We just wouldn't go away. But Clay-Chalkville is a good team, and when we got close, they would push the lead out."

Wright, a senior, finished with 20 points to lead Oxford, which ended the season at 8-22.

"I'm disappointed, but it's not that we lost -- it's that I won't get to coach these guys more," Van Meter said. "I think we squeezed everything we could out of what we had. To go through a season and win eight games, a season like this shows a lot of young men's character. And I think we came out with high character.

"I'm ready to go back to work in a week."

For Clay-Chalkville (22-8), Brian Clark had 18 points, and Martin Reed finished with 12.
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