By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Falling to the Romeo Bulldogs, 45-43, on a 3-pointer with less than two seconds to play, the Oxford Wildcats boys’ basketball team returned to the Ian Smith Gymnasium on February 22 to battle the Rochester Adams Highlanders, a member of the Oakland Activities Association’s (OAA) White Division.
Leading by two points at the halftime break, the Wildcats ended up losing by the same number, 53-51.
Star senior guard Mason Mulholland was Oxford’s high scorer, finishing with 25 points, with classmate and small forward Palmer Speck chipping in seven.
Playing their second consecutive home game, the Wildcats took to the floor again four days later, February 26, against the Berkley Bears, an OAA Blue foe. A low-scoring affair that saw the two teams combine for just 27 points in the first half, the Bears prevailed, 51-50, in overtime to complete the season sweep.
This defeat marked three-straight losses for the program by two points or fewer and extended the team’s losing streak to four games.
The half-full outlook here was that the program was close, they were in every game, and just needed to clean up a couple of areas up to finish the deal and return to the positive side of the win-loss ledger.
On February 27, in a rare Saturday game, Oxford made the necessary corrections and topped an old Flint Metro League (FML) opponent, the Brandon Blackhawks, 55-41.
Head coach Steve Laidlaw made a couple of changes to his starting five for the Brandon clash, reinserting Speck and giving sophomore Logan Rozanski a nod for the first time.
Junior Alec Brown registered 15 points to pace the Wildcats, with classmate Mitch Viviano and Speck also reaching double-figures, recording 12 and 10, respectively.
Snapping their four-game skid, the program now stands at 3-5 (0-2 OAA Blue).
“This keeps us going, keeps us going, that’s what it does, we needed it, we needed to stop the bleeding,” Laidlaw said. “I mean, our last three games, basically lost at the buzzer at Romeo, basically lost at the buzzer last night (Berkley), and then, had a chance to win it at the end against Adams, who’s really good. “We’re going to get Bryce (Esman) back, so, there’s a lot left to play for. Still a lot left in the season, we just needed this, I thought we were really good that third quarter. Palmer Speck has been awesome this entire week, he’s had three really good games in a row, he’s a great leader, he’s doing a fantastic job, we can play him at so many different positions, and we’re getting better, that’s the thing I like, we’re making strides.”
As Laidlaw said, 6-foot-7 junior center Bryce Esman, who has not played this season after suffering a right ankle injury in practice just days before the February 9 season-opener, shed his walking boot and returned to practice on Monday, March 1.
One of the team’s three captains, Esman, who played for the varsity team in 2019-20 as a sophomore, could return to game action as soon as Tuesday, March 2 at home against the Birmingham Seaholm Maples or Thursday, March 4 on the road against the rival Lake Orion Dragons.
In another injury note, Rozanski left the Brandon victory in the third quarter with a right ankle injury of his own and had it wrapped by the Blackhawk medical staff and left the gymnasium on crutches. When asked postgame, Laidlaw said they were told it was a sprain, so, this is a situation to monitor.
Results from the Seaholm game were not available in time for this issue. The Lake Orion tilt represents the beginning of a six-game road trip for the team, as Oxford will travel to Lapeer to face the Lightning on Friday, March 5, and Stoney Creek on Tuesday, March 9.
By Teddy Rydquist