Oxford defeats Sun Valley, 60-43
● By Steven Hoffman
On a night that six seniors—Thomas Cruz, Shain Quigley, Tyler Farr, John Kim, Brendan Ward, and Angel Torres—were honored during a pre-game ceremony as part of Senior Night festivities at Oxford Area High School, those same seniors played a pivotal role in propelling the Hornets to a 60-43 victory over Sun Valley on Feb. 4.
From the moment that Cruz scored the first basket of the game, Oxford controlled the pace of play with its quick offense and hustling defense. The Hornets were able to push the ball up the floor quickly, and their crisp passes led to good looks at the basket for Oxford shooters.
Sun Valley led—for a moment—midway through the first quarter, but Quigley knocked down a jumpter to reclaim the lead. Kim added a lay-up to push Oxford's lead to 8-5. Later, with the first quarter nearing its conclusion, a steal by point guard Brian Dorsey led to a fast-break lay-up for Cruz, making it 10-7. Cruz would finish the game with 16 points.
Oxford pressed the advantage in the second quarter, going on a 17-8 run. Dorsey hit a three-pointer and Farr connected on a short jumper as the Hornets pushed their lead to 27-15 at the break.
Dorsey sparked Oxford's offense early in the third quarter, dropping in a three-pointer and then making a nice move through the heart of Sun Valley's defense on his way to a lay-up. When Quigley hit a short basket midway through the third, Oxford's lead was 36-19.
Sun Valley received a lift from the play of Ryan Hall, who sank a three-pointer late in the third quarter, as well as Ishamael Ahmad, whose basket cut Oxford's lead to 40-25.
Just as Farr closed the second quarter with a basket, he finished off the scoring in the third quarter with a lay-up after a long pass from Dorsey. It was 46-26 in Oxford's favor at that point. The offense never wavered during the game, and the Hornets were playing with so much intensity on defense that it was impossible for Sun Valley to make a run.
The Hornets put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, and once again it was the seniors on the team who were shining. With 3:25 left to play in the game, Farr connected on a three-pointer from the right side of the court. On the next possession, Cruz hit a three a three-pointer from the other side. It was 58-32. The home crowd roared in delight at the strong showing.
In the closing two minutes of the game, everyone in attendance got to see an illustration of why sports are so great. Even in a game that was not going to feature an exciting finish, something unexpected and inspirational can happen. Sun Valley coach Steve Maloney inserted senior Jerry Spennato into the lineup. With Sun Valley working on offense, Spennato, who has autism, got himself into position and scored on a jumper. The crowd erupted in applause, rewarding Spennato with his own big moment on Senior Night—even though he was playing for the visiting team.
Showing tremendous sportsmanship, the Hornets quickly turned the ball back over to Sun Valley. The ball ended up in Spennato's hands once again. He connected on a second basket, cutting the lead to 60-40.
Oxford turned the ball back over to Sun Valley and this time Spennato stepped behind the three-point line and sank his third basket in a row.
When the final seconds ticked away, the Hornets celebrated their Senior Night win. Sun Valley celebrated Spennato's performance.
“He's a great kid,” Maloney said of Spennato. “He has been on the team for four years. He comes to all the practices and he works really hard.”
The Hornets were glad that they were there to see the Sun Valley senior get his playing time with the varsity squad.
“It was nice to see,” Quigley said immediately after the game. “It was special for him.”
Farr added, “I'm happy that our team could do that for him.”
Quigley said that team appreciated the support that it received on Senior Night. With no playoffs in the offing this season, Oxford's core group of seniors were playing together for one of the last times, and it was good to earn such an impressive win. Many of the players have been playing together on the court since middle school.
“We gave it all that we could,” Quigley said. “It's a little bittersweet since we're not making the playoffs this season.”
Farr said that Oxford might have the best guard play in the Ches-Mont League, in part because the team is so deep at the position, and what can happen when they are all playing well was on full display in the 60-43 win. Farr and Quigley agreed that while this wasn't the best game that Oxford played as a team all season, it was a good performance for Senior Night.