Poor quarter leads to Oxford defeat, 74-69
● By Richard Gaw
Giving further evidence to why they are the class of this year's Ches-Mont American Division, Octorara took advantage of Oxford's dismal second quarter to earn a hard-fought 74-69 victory behind a controlled offense, aggressive defense and sharp free-throw shooting.
Led by three-point baskets by Thomas Cruz and Tyler Farr, Oxford jumped out to a quick 11-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, despite the fact that both teams opened with sloppy passing and heads-down, forced drives in the paint. With control of the game's tempo now offered to the first bidder, Octorara seized control in the second quarter by outscoring Oxford, 24-12, on the support of Octorara's half-court press, timely outside shooting and 8-of-11 in free throw shooting.
With 5:30 left in the half, a three-pointer by Tarojae Brake cut Oxford's lead to 16-15, and although the bucket was quickly answered by a shot by Oxford's Ryan Hubley and a subsequent three-pointer by the Hornets' Josh Mosley, the Braves clawed their way to a 32-23 halftime lead. A three-pointer by Andrew Forman with 3:30 left in the half moved Octorara within 21-20, and after being fouled with 2:58 remaining, Levi Worthington sank two free throws – his first of four in the quarter, on 7-8 from the line on the night – to give the Braves the lead for the first time in the game. It would be a lead that Oxford would never overcome. On it's next possession, Forman's steal led to a break-away slam dunk to extend Octorara's lead to 24-21.
"In the first quarter, Oxford got a lot of second shots," said Octorara coach Gene Lambert. "In the second quarter, they didn't get any second shots, and we were able to push the ball up the floor for some layups. That's how we've come to play this year."
In the often herky-jerky, back-and-forth rhythm of high school basketball, rare is the team with a slow-down, workman-like composure that allows the pace of the game to flow through its own hands. The 2014-15 Octorara Braves are that team, a full compliment of smooth shooters [Brake and Worthington], complimentary players [Jackson Ray and Forman], a quarterback [Corey Cooper] and quick offense off the bench [Christian Ray].
As the third quarter pressed on, it was clear that the balanced attack that moves the Octorara basketball team was in full motion. Despite three pointers by Farr, Mosley and two by Cruz, the Braves spent most of the third quarter on their own end of the court, extending their lead to 55-44 by the end of the quarter. The effective "small ball" of Octorara's offense, complimented by its defensive pressure, kept the Hornets from turning the momentum of the game in their favor.
It wasn't that they didn't try, however. Down 65-57 with three minutes remaining in the game, Hubley converted a free throw after being fouled after making an inside basket. On Oxford's next possession, Shain Quigley made two free throws, and suddenly, it was a six-point game with 2:45 left. Hubley was again fouled after making a short bucket, made the free throw and brought the Hornets to within three points, 69-66, with 1:17 remaining. With one minute left, Hubley again drove the baseline to bring Oxford within two, 70-68.
With 35 second left on the clock, however, and needing the ball, Oxford fouled Worthington, who calmly sank both free throws of a one-and-one to seal the win.
Worthington and Brake led Octorara with 17 points apiece, followed by Forman with 13, Christian Ray with 12 points, including three three-pointers, and Jackson Ray with 11 points. Hubley led Oxford with 25 points, followed by Farr and Cruz with 14 points each. With the victory, Octorara extended its overall record on the season to 11-1, and moved to 12-1 overall with a 72-39 drubbing of Wyomissing on Jan. 10. Meanwhile, Sean Harvey's Oxford team now sits at 8-7 overall, which, in addition to the loss to Octorara, also included a 60-50 defeat against Coatesville on Jan. 10.
Octorara travels to Sun Valley on Jan. 15, while Oxford plays at Bayard Rustin on Jan. 15.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.