By Richard L. Gaw
With five minutes left in the first quarter of Oxford's varsity basketball game against Octorara on Dec. 17, Hornet head coach Sean Harvey removed all five of his starting players and replaced them with his substitutes. No one could blame him; after all, his club had gone nearly that long without scoring a single point, and their play was a hot mess of poor passing and complete lack of ball control.
Ironically, the move turned out to be the key turning point in the game.
Backed by a strong supporting crew, the sharp shooting of senior guard Jordan Logan (16 points) and the strong inside game of senior forward Miles Clarke (12 points), the Hornets overcame a sluggish start to soundly defeat visiting Octorara, 80-51. The Braves jumped to a quick lead on three-pointers by junior co-captain Tarojae Brake and senior co-captain Devante White, and while the Oxford starters languished on the bench throughout most of the first quarter, they saw their teammates slowly claw their way back into the game on a bank shot by sophomore Tyler Farr and two free throws by junior Josh Mosley. With a 13-10 lead with seconds remaining in the first, White hit his second three-pointer to tie the game at 13.
As the second quarter got underway, Harvey gave the game back to his starters, and they responded with a furious fast break attack led by Logan and Clarke, who began the second with a jumper and followed on the next possession by a reverse layup. Opening up a 23-15 lead on two layups by junior Ryan Hubley, Oxford began to effectively play both sides of the court, holding the Braves to just just one field goal into well into the quarter. The defensive effort had barely taken hold when a three-pointer by White with 2:30 left in the quarter cut the lead to 26-19, which he followed with a gorgeous feed to sophomore Jackson Ray for a layup. After Brake's two free throws cut the lead to 28-23, he followed up with a steal and a layup. With seconds remaining in the half, Clarke's layup gave the Hornets a slim 30-29 lead at halftime.
If the first half provided just a glimpse of what the Oxford offense has a capability of doing, the second half gave the clearest of snapshots, as the Hornets compiled a whopping 27 points in the third quarter and 23 in the fourth. Even more telling was the fact that Oxford's game was evenly divided not only between the offensive play of Logan, Clarke and senior guard Dylan Dunn, but with a shut-down defense that held Octorara to just 12 points in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth. What began as with a deliberate, perimeter offensive strategy used Octorara at the opening tip-off had spiraled downward to a “one-and-done” effort, one that was swallowed up by a fast-break offense that seemed to allow Oxford to score at will, and by the end of the third, an alley oop pass from Logan to Clarke had extended Oxford's already sizable lead to 57-41.
With the lead already in hand, Oxford gave the ball to reserve senior guard Devin Sumner, who responded with two layups, and Moseley, who iced the victory with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:25 left.
In addition to Logan and Clarke, Oxford was led by Dunn with 9 points and Hubley with 8 points. For Octorara, White scored 19 points, followed by Brake with 14.
The win improves the Hornets' early-season record to 4-1 and 2-0 in the Ches-Mont American division, trailing only Great Valley at 5-0. After an away game against Avon Grove on Dec. 23, Oxford begins 2014 with a home game against Kennett on Jan. 3. For Octorara, the loss leaves the Braves with a 3-3 overall record and 0-2 in conference play.