Oxford defeats Kennett, 40-39
● By Steven Hoffman
The two teams were never separated by more than six points and there were four ties and eight lead changes during the fast-faced, hard-fought game that showcased two of the Ches-Mont League’s most improved teams.
“It was a big win for us,” said Messick. “Kennett is a great team, and our players played their hearts out tonight.”
Oxford guard Emily Shallow sparked the offense early on, hitting a jumper and then finishing off a fast-break with a short basket as the Hornets claimed an early lead.
On defense, Oxford focused its efforts on Jess Hussey, Kennett’s talented senior forward who helped her team win 9 out of its first 10 games before some recent tough losses. Oxford guard Hannah Bahls drew the difficult assignment of trying to stop Hussey, but the Hornets’ game plan also had other players hustling to lend support whenever it looked like Kennett was going to push the ball inside. Oxford had some success with this strategy, limiting Hussey to just one point in the first quarter.
Kennett turned to freshman guard Andrea Prestianne, who knocked down a three-pointer to keep her team close.
Both teams got contributions from the bench. For Oxford, Grace Hennessey played valuable minutes helping to stop Hussey in the middle. And for Kennett, sophomore forward Alexa Hussey provided her team with an advantage in the front court.
Oxford went on a 7-1 early in the second quarter. Bahls hit a three-pointer to give her team a brief six-point lead.
Despite Oxford’s best efforts, Jess Hussey was determined to get her points and rebounds on the offensive and defensive glass. Kennett sophomore Caroline Hertz, a guard, made two free throws to cut Oxford’s lead to 16-13 in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
When Bahls hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter, it looked like Oxford might go on another run. But Kennett quickly answered with a shot from beyond the arc by Prestianne. A few minutes later, she gave Kennett a 20-19 lead. Despite missing one of its best players, coach Vince Cattano’s Kennett squad battled hard to find a way to win. After a jumper by Hennessey helped Oxford tie the game at 21-21, Hertz poured in a three-pointer to answer back. Later in the third, Hussey tracked down an offensive rebound, scored a basket and drew a foul. Her free throw made it a 28-27 game. Bahls finished the third quarter the same way that she started it—with a three-pointer—as Oxford held a 31-27 lead.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle. Kennett claimed a 33-32 lead after a fast-break led to a basket by Melissa Houck. Oxford came right back with a basket by Hennessey, followed by a beautiful jump shot by freshman guard Miranda Porretta that made it 36-33.
Hertz pulled Kennett to within one point with under two minutes to play when she scored a basket and got fouled. Her free throw made it 38-37. But then Bahls was fouled trying to drive to the hoop. She made both free throws for a 40-37 lead.
Houck drove to the hoop for another score with 19 seconds to play, making it 40-39, and neither team could score in the closing seconds.
The victory improved Oxford’s record to 7-5, while Kennett’s record stood at 9-4. Bahls led Oxford’s balanced scoring attack with 13 points, while Shallow finished with 11.
Hussey’s 13 points led the way for Kennett. Hertz added 12 points, and Prestianne chipped in with 9 more. Kennett’s young team—there’s only two seniors on the roster—has a lot of promise.
Messick said that he was pleased with how his team played during its three-game winning streak. Oxford only has two seniors on the team, and the emergence of younger players like guards Porretta, Madeline Williams, and Hannah D’ aquanno bodes well for the team’s future.
“We know that we can do special things,” Messick said. “We believe that if we play hard and we play our game, we can compete with anybody.”