OXFORD — Oxford’s boys are just riding the wave of good basketball and good news these days.
The Yellow Jackets got 14 points apiece from Eugene Leonard and Braden Mack and bagged their ninth victory in 11 games Thursday, beating Southside 61-49 in the 6A, Area 13 final. The Yellow Jackets (17-11) earned Tuesday’s home sub-regional shot against today’s Homewood-Parker loser.
Southside (12-15) will go on the road to play the winner. Both sub-regional winners will advance to the Northeast Regional.
Among spectators Thursday was former and future Yellow Jacket Zondrick Garrett, who re-enrolled at Oxford last Friday after spending this season at Georgia’s Lincoln Academy. He starred as a freshman in Oxford’s run to the 2017 Northeast Regional final and will be eligible for the 2018-19 season, as a junior.
“I came back because of coaching and everything else that was there,” Garrett said before Thursday’s game. “Six people have already left. I just had to come back.”
The victory also came on a night when Oxford established “Connie’s Corner” to honor the wife of the school’s Hall of Fame coach and athletics director. Connie’s Corner will be atop the first level, behind the home bench and overlooking home-side script on Larry Davidson Court.
“It’s well-deserved,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “Between her and Larry Davidson, those are icons at this school and icons within the basketball program.”
Thanks to Oxford’s third-quarter surge, the night came with a victorious outcome for the home team.
Leading 26-25 at halftime, Oxford opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run and took as much as a 45-28 lead on a Simeon Shadrix 3-pointer. Southside got within 11 points four times in the fourth quarter — the last coming on Devin Laster’s high-arching 3-pointer to make it 60-49 with less than a minute to play — but came no closer.
“We just took it to the defensive end with our defensive plays making our plays on offense,” Leonard said. “Everybody just defend real well.”
Center Gavin Orr led Southside with 15 points. Tristan Riggin added 14 and Laster 10.
Riggin and Orr made the all-tournament team, along with Leonard, Markise Davis and Kendrick Foster from Oxford and Pell City’s Brandon Calhoun.
With a home sub-regional, Oxford gets a leg up on making their second Northeast Regional in as many years. The Yellow Jackets lost to Parker in the regional final last season.
“I would venture to say — and I don’t know percentages — but about 80 percent of games that are at home are won,” Van Meter said. “Whoever we play, it’s going to be a war, but it gives you a definite advantage.”