Oxford wins Ches-Mont American Division crown
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford girls’ basketball team captured the Ches-Mont American Division crown last Saturday, defeating West Chester Rustin, 42-33, in a matchup of two teams that entered the season finale with identical 10-1 records in league action.
Oxford won this game the way they’ve won so many games this season—with hustle and hard work. Coach Brian Urig said that the players have consistently worked hard since last summer to reach this point.
“I’m very proud of the team,” Urig said. “They’ve worked really hard and never wavered from what they wanted to do.”
The game featured playoff-level intensity from the very start. Maggie O’Hare hit a three-pointer to start the scoring for Rustin, and Lexi Zavitsky soon followed with a three-pointer of her own. But it didn’t take Oxford long to settle in defensively and limit Rustin’s scoring opportunities.
Oxford guard Miranda Porretta knocked down a three-pointer from the corner, and added a basket with 1:40 left in the first quarter to tie the score at 8-8.
Oxford’s tireless teamwork was on display as the second quarter got underway. Senior forward Grace Hennessey grabbed a defensive rebound and Oxford moved the ball up the court. The first shot wouldn’t fall, but guard Hannah D’ Aquanno was there to haul in the offensive rebound. She was fouled and gave Oxford its first lead of the game. The Hornets then closed the quarter on a 10-2 run. Hennessey scored five of those points and was a force on the offensive and defensive glass as the Hornets built a 19-14 lead at halftime.
“She really controlled the game,” Urig said of Hennessey’s performance. “She has worked very hard, and I’m proud of the effort.”
Rustin guard Dakiya Daniels scored back-to-back baskets to start the third, pulling her team to within one point, but Oxford’s defense once again responded to the challenge. With Porretta, D’ Aquanno, Hennessey, and guards Madeline Williams and Emily Shallow, there isn’t a weak link in the defensive chain. Despite Rustin’s best efforts, they couldn’t cut into Oxford’s lead, and at the end of three quarters it was 28-23. Hennessey scored seven more points in the third quarter. Both teams were struggling to get good looks at the basket, and Hennessey's ability to give Oxford extra scoring chances was making the difference.
Williams came up with a nice steal to start the fourth quarter, leading to a shot by Porretta. It wouldn’t fall, but Porretta was fouled and hit both free throws. A moment later, Porretta made a beautiful pass to Hennessey as she was knifing her way to the basket for another score. On the next trip up the court, Oxford started to spread the floor and take some time off the clock. Porretta found an opening and drove to the hoop. Her shot wouldn’t fall, but Hennessey was there to grab the rebound and get the two points. With four minutes left, Oxford still held a seven-point lead. The team never eased up on defense, and never gave Rustin a chance to go on a run. Down the stretch, Oxford pushed its lead to 11 points and never allowed Rustin to get closer than eight points. Rustin’s last shot, launched with less than five seconds left, was inconsequential. Hennessey, appropriately enough, was there to haul in the rebound and was holding the ball as time expired. The victory, and the Ches-Mont League’s American Division title, belonged to Oxford.
Urig said that he was very pleased with his team’s strong defensive effort. “You can’t get fancy against Rustin,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons and you need to play good defense to stop them.”
According to Hennessey, the team works hard on its defense in practice, and it’s not just the starters. She said that the reserves push the starters to improve their games by playing so hard on offense during practice. That enables the starters to improve their defense.
The Hornets were led by Hennessey’s 20 points. Porretta scored 9 points, while D’ Aquanno added 6 points. Williams chipped in 4 points and Shallow scored 3 points.
Oxford had a tremendous amount of success during Urig’s first tenure as coach between 2003 and 2012 and now, in his first season back, the Hornets are the champions of the Ches-Mont League’s American Division. The coach shrugged off the suggestion that he deserves any of the credit for this year’s success, pointing out that it was hard work of the team that led them to the top of the Ches-Mont League’s American Division.
“I’m just proud to be working with this group of players,” Urig said.