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IN THE WOODS: Pinson Valley star proves too much for Oxford in regional loss

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Oxford's Zondrick Garrett tries to block the shot by Pinson Valley's Kameron Woods. Oxford boys played Pinson Valley in the Northeast Regional basketball tournament Friday at Jacksonville State University. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

JACKSONVILLE — Oxford’s showdown with Pinson Valley in Friday’s Class 6A Northeast Regional semifinals came down to Kam Woods vs. Zondrick Garrett.

In the end, Woods’ ability to make challenged shots and Oxford’s struggles at the foul line proved decisive.

Woods scored 41 points, 36 after halftime, and Pinson Valley outlasted Oxford 70-67 in overtime to advance to Tuesday’s 2:15 p.m. final against Huffman.

The winner advances to the state semifinals in Birmingham.

The Oxford-Pinson Valley game was broadly seen as a potential de facto state championship game.

“You can’t fault our effort,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “That was, basically, two heavyweights going at each other, two teams both with a good enough team and good enough players to win a state championship.”

Oxford (22-9) had Garrett, the 6-foot-7 senior who filled the stat sheet with 28 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks and a steal. He scored 16 points from the fourth quarter on.

“I was just trying to get points on the board and trying to make it easy on us,” Garrett said.

Problem was, Pinson Valley (28-3) had more than an answer in Woods. He scored 12 of the Indians’ 13 third-quarter points, heating up just as Oxford turned a 27-23 halftime lead into a 40-28 spread by 3:38.

“I knew I had to score for us to be in it,” Woods said. “The first half, I was sluggish, so that’s why we were down. When they hyped my head up to go out there and score, we came back.”

Just about all of Oxford’s lineup had turns defending Woods, but Justin Moore defended him most. His mission was to crowd Woods at the 3-point line and make him drive in at Garrett, who had length and leaps to challenge Woods’ driving shots.

Woods hit four 3-pointers, mostly from offensive rebounds and kickouts, but did most of his damage driving and lobbing over Garrett’s long arms, or reversing around him.

“Those are hard shots,” Van Meter said. “I would say there’s not another high school kid in this state who’s making those shots. If there is, I’d like to see him.

“We executed that play flawlessly, and he made the shots. You have to give him all of the credit.”

A Woods jumper put Pinson Valley up 58-57 with a minute left in regulation, but Garrett hit the first of two free throws to tie with 42 seconds left.

Oxford was 10-for-21 at the foul line in regulation and 13-25 for the game.

“For the most part, we’ve been a good free-throw shooting team, probably around 67, 68 percent,” Van Meter said. “I mean, that’s the game of basketball. There are going to be nights where you don’t shoot whatever well.

“Tonight, we didn’t shoot free throws well, but I’ll say this. To me, the difference in the game was our size, and they out-offensive-rebounded us 16-15.”

Oxford had a 44-32 overall rebounding edge.

Still, it came down to the final 42 seconds of regulation, and Pinson Valley with possession and an arena full of people knowing what came next. Woods dribbled against Moore until the Indians called a timeout at 11.2 seconds.

Coming out of the timeout, Kobe Warren guarded Woods, who drove left, turned in and tried another lob over Garrett. This one missed.

The overtime back-and-forth turned after Austen Griffie made two free throws to put Pinson Valley up 66-65 to play at the one-minute mark.

A moment’s indecision caused Warren, Oxford’s point guard, to shuffle his feet and draw a walking call in front of Oxford’s bench. Kool Aid McKinstry dunked on the Indians’ ensuing possession, making it 68-65 with 55 ticks left.

Garrett missed a 3-point try at 29 seconds, forcing Oxford to foul. Woods hit twice to make it 70-65 at 14 seconds.

Roc Taylor rebounded and putback another Garrett miss from the arc to bring Oxford within 70-67, and JoJo James missed two free throws with three seconds left to set up a last-gasp chance for Oxford.

Taylor leaped and caught a long inbounds pass outside the Oxford 3-point line, looking to pass to either Garrett or Warren on the wings. McKinstry knocked the ball away before Taylor could pass it.

“I told them, throw it to the best football player in the state with the best hands, and he went and got it,” Van Meter said. “He came down and was ready to turn and make a pass and got bumped and got knocked off balance, and it is what it is.”

Taylor said McKinstry “slapped” his arm, “but things happen.”

Taylor finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Moore added 12 points.

McKinstry added 10 points for Pinson Valley, which forced 22 Oxford turnovers.

“I just want to commend our guys for fighting to the end and never giving up,” Pinson Valley coach Darrell Barber said. “That’s what we’ve done all season long, so I’m extremely proud of my guys with their effort and guts down the stretch.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.