By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Steve Laidlaw’s boys’ basketball program played three Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Blue Division games from March 2-5, winning the first and dropping the latter two to bring their season record to 4-7 (1-4).
The victory came on March 2 at the Ian Smith Gymnasium over the Birmingham Seaholm Maples, 55-45.
Oxford jumped out to an eight-point halftime lead, 27-19, and after the Maples cut the deficit to two after three quarters, pulled away in the final eight minutes to seal the deal. Star senior guard Mason Mulholland led the way with 27 points, his second-highest total of the season, with junior power forward Mitch Viviano adding 10.
Senior Jonny Cross paced Seaholm with 17.
Two days later, March 4, the Wildcats traveled to Lake Orion High School to battle their rival. Never able to find their footing offensively, totaling just 12 points in the first half, the Dragons won, 43-30.
Senior Tristan Bennett tallied a team-high nine points, with Mulholland and Viviano both contributing seven.
Lake Orion junior Alden Ritt, who stands 6-foot-7, scored a game-high 13 points.
The clash with the Dragons did hold some additional significance, however, as it marked the season debut of junior center Bryce Esman, who missed the first nine games with a right ankle injury.
While it will take some time for him to acclimate himself to game action, Esman provides Oxford with returning varsity experience, as he was a member of the 2019-20 team as a sophomore, and a shot-blocking and rebounding presence to pair with Viviano.
Rounding out their week on March 5 by returning to their home court, the Wildcats were defeated by the Troy Athens Red Hawks, 59-46.
Red Hawks senior Michael Justice led all scorers with 21 points, while Mulholland was Oxford’s high scorer with 16. Junior point guard Alec Brown chipped in 12, and Esman recorded his first three of the campaign.
“I thought we were really good Tuesday (against Seaholm),” Laidlaw said. “I was worried Lake Orion was going to get really aggressive defensively, and they did, try to take Mason (Mulholland) out, and they did. They were making other people beat them, and we couldn’t do it. We turned the ball over way too much in the first quarter, I thought we did a good job defensively against Lake Orion.
“Tonight (Troy Athens), we took care of the ball better, we had a bad stretch there early in the fourth quarter. Started doing some nice things offensively, kicking, driving, throwing the ball into Bryce (Esman) more, so, I like how we’re getting better offensively, finding different people to score.
“I thought Tristan (Bennett) played his best game offensively against Lake Orion, Alec (Brown) was very good today. What I don’t like about us, and there’s nothing we can do about it, is we’re now trying to get acclimated with Bryce. He had one good practice with us, and that was Wednesday (March 3), you know? He sat out a month and now we’re starting to get him acclimated, but we’re getting there, and we’re going to get better and better.”
On Tuesday, March 9, Oxford began a four-game road trip with a clash with the Stoney Creek Cougars, which will be followed by contests with Troy Athens on Thursday, March 11, and the Notre Dame Preparatory Fighting Irish on Friday, March 12.
2020-21 boys’ basketball point totals (through 11 games)
- Mason Mulholland: 212 points (19.2 points-per-game)
- Mitch Viviano: 79 points (7.1 ppg)
- Alec Brown: 68 points (6.1 ppg)
- Palmer Speck: 54 points (4.9 ppg)
- Tristan Bennett: 42 points (3.8 ppg)
- Trent Brown: 40 points (3.6 ppg)
- Bryce Esman: 3 points (1.5 ppg)
- Logan Rozanski: 10 points (1 ppg)
- Dylan Stone: 10 points (0.9 ppg)
- Silas VonAllmen: 8 points (0.7 ppg)
- Ben Cruz: 3 points (0.2 ppg)