SOUTHSIDE — Oxford’s girls made a run in their 6A, Area 13 tourney opener Monday, but the Yellow Jackets had to stop and stand too often to finish it.
Pell City reached double bonus at the start of the fourth quarter and shot 41 free throws to Oxford’s 10. It was more than the Yellow Jackets could overcome in a season-ending 53-44 loss.
“You’re not going to get a much bigger discrepancy than 41-10,” Oxford coach Melissa Bennett said. “Part of that, we were too complacent in the first half. We started attacking more in the second half.”
Pell City (14-8), which swept three games against Oxford this season, advanced to Wednesday’s championship game against Southside, which earned a first-round bye in the three-team area.
Oxford lost its final five games en route to an 11-14 finish.
Pell City’s Mary Denman Luker led all scorers with 25 points, making 14 of 17 free throws. Pell City coach Jennifer Lee made sure Denman had the ball when Oxford had to foul down the stretch.
Aikerria Bedford added 10 points, helping the Panthers build a 25-15 lead at halftime and a 12-point edge early in the third. They led Oxford 10 points five times in the third quarter, the last coming when Morgan Roberts hit the first of two free throws to make it 34-24.
Tremeria Britt, who tied Ashleigh Jackson’s team-high 10 points, found the mark, hitting 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to close the game to 34-30 going into the fourth quarter.
“I was open, so I just shot it,” Britt said. “I was thinking we really had it in the bag, like we were coming back. When we get that close, we usually come back, but we had a couple of turnovers here and there.”
Pell City converted three Oxford turnovers into seven points to start the fourth quarter, working back out to a 41-30 edge on a Luker layup.
“They had a good game plan,” Bennett said. “They were good at getting hands on the ball when we’d drive.”
Two Jackson free throws closed Oxford to within 41-35, but the Yellow Jackets came no closer. Pell City hit eight of 14 free throws down the stretch.
Oxford, which played top seed Anniston to a thrilling Calhoun County final, falling 59-55, will lose five seniors. The class includes Britt, MaKayla Kidd and Anna Bolton, the Yellow Jackets’ most consistent scorers this season.
“I’m super proud of the seniors, to go from six wins last year to get double digits, especially against the schedule that we played,” Bennett said. “We played an SEC-caliber schedule, as far as strength of schedule. At one point, we had seven teams we played that were ranked.
“The growth that we’ve had from last year to this year, I attest a lot of that to our seniors. I hate it that it ended this way for them, especially against our rival.”