On December 15, the Wildcats varsity basketball team captured its first victory of the season, defeating Lapeer 62-39.
The team now hopes to carry forward that momentum throughout the season, according to Head Coach Steve Laidlaw.
Oxford had a balanced scoring attack that evening led by senior point guard Jimmy Claudio with 13 points and was followed by junior Michael Raisch, senior Nolan harding and junior Connor Nicholson with 12 points each.
Nicholson had a fantastic all-around game, according to Laidlaw, holding Lapeer’s leading scorer to a mere 11 points. Sophomore Trey Townsend also had a fantastic defensive game with numerous blocked shots and rebounds.
The win followed two losses for the Cats in early December, when the team fell to both Lake Orion and Romeo.
The Wildcats basketball team has 13 players this season with four returning boys.
The small number of returning players is one trait of the team that Laidlaw said he feels may pose a challenge this season.
“We’re a very young team,” Laidlaw said. “Out of our 13 players, only three are seniors and one of them didn’t play with us last year. With 10 underclassmen, there’s a lot to teach them and obviously, the speed of the game is so much different at the varsity level than at the (junior varsity) level, but so far Trey Townsend and Grant Kornburger, especially, have adapted very quickly.”
Despite this challenge, Laidlaw added that watching the performance of his team so far throughout the season has brought him confidence that the Cats will be successful on the court.
He called the four returning players – Raisch, Nicholson, Claudio and Harding – stand-out athletes, along with Townsend.
“Our biggest strength as a team is that we have very versatile players. Kids who can play inside, kids who can play outside and it really is led by Michael Raisch, Conner Nicholson and Trey Townsend. Those three are very versatile… Then Jimmy and Nolan are very good perimeter shooters . . . They’re critical to the team.”
According to Laidlaw, the team is focused on rising to the top of the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) white division this season after moving up in rank from the blue division last season.
“Our main thing is that we’re just trying to continually improve in all facets,” said Laidlaw. “We need to get physically stronger so we lift weights quite a bit . . . There’s such a huge learning curve going from JV basketball to varsity basketball in any sport.
“The learning curve in basketball is the highest, just because the speed of the game is so much (faster) and the players are more skilled. We’re constantly just working on the fundamentals and our execution. That being said, last year wasn’t just an aberration. We’re going to continue to have success and this season’s really critical.”
The team’s next game will be during the Imlay City Holiday Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m.