Strong defense propels Avon Grove to 38-35 win
● By Richard Gaw
To glance at the line score of Avon Grove's 38-35 victory over visiting Oxford on Jan. 5 is to acknowledge that Ben Hauton, Reese Zeigler and Nick Coyle scored a collective 13 total points for the Red Devils, but when it comes to telling the narrative of a basketball game, line scores are a cheat sheet of proper documentation.
The real truth of the win was in the defensive efforts of Hauton, Zeigler and Coyle, who won this game by virtue of their scrappy, almost maniacal defense, which shut down Oxford center Thomas Repetz and forced the Hornets into several turnovers.
“We kind of pride ourselves on being a good defensive team,” said Avon Grove coach John Roe. “I thought we did a really great job of keeping them in front of us, forcing them to make contested shots. We did a great job on their big guy [Repetz], and then Hauton came in and did a great job of limiting his touches, and keeping him off the backboard. For the most part, we were finishing possessions, which allowed us to get out and run, and we had good transition, which is important in a game that was as tight as this.”
When points are in limited supply in basketball, the attention turns to the efforts that limit them, and as Oxford's 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter will attest, this Ches-Mont League game was going to be decided on the merits of defense. Oxford coach Brian Urig's squad began the game in a zone defense, while Roe employed a man-to-man defense which, as the second quarter got underway, led to deliberate, perimeter offenses that tacked just nine points on the board for Oxford, and nine for Avon Grove.
With 6:31 left in the first half, Luke Campbell's breakaway layup attempt resulted in a foul and two free throws that staked Oxford to a 13-10 lead, but as the clock wound down, a layup by Bryson Morgan and two Zeigler buckets helped give the Red Devils a slim 19-17 lead at halftime.
With 2:55 remaining in the third quarter, a fast-break layup by Morgan gave Avon Grove a 23-18 lead, and despite an Oxford timeout to settle the shift in the game, the Hornets could not convert offensive rebounds into points. While Hauton, Zeigler and Coyle continued to keep the ball away from Repetz, a three-pointer by Matt Gallagher early in the fourth quarter extended Avon Grove's lead to 27-21, which was soon followed by Mike Russo's third three-pointer of the game with 5:26 left, that extended the lead to 31-23.
Two three-point jumpers by Oxford's Christian McCartney kept the Hornets in the game – the second of which pulled Oxford to within two points with 1:40 left, and with 48 seconds left, Brandon Sivels made one of two free throws to bring Oxford to within a point. Suddenly, what had been a comfortable lead had been whittled down to a game that could potentially see overtime.
During an Avon Grove timeout with 19.5 seconds left in the game, and clinging to a narrow lead, Roe implored his team to “finish the game.” The Red Devil defense forced Oxford into another turnover on the in-bounds pass, and two free throws by Gallagher with 16.5 seconds remaining sealed the win.
Gallagher and Russo paced Avon Grove with nine points each, and McCartney led Oxford with 13 points.
With the victory, Avon Grove improved to 3-7 on the season, and travels to Downingtown East on Jan. 8 and Henderson on Jan. 10. Oxford fell to 2-8, and looks to get back on the winning track with games at Unionville on Jan. 8 and Bayard Rustin on Jan. 10.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.