Cagers battle a couple of county’s best teams

Continuing their difficult introduction to Oakland Activities Association (OAA) White play, the Oxford Wildcats boys’ basketball team welcomed in the Farmington Falcons to the Ian Smith Gymnasium on Jan. 21.
Known for their high-scoring attack featuring a flurry of three-point attempts, the Falcons presented a challenge for an Oxford team that has struggled with dry spells on the offensive end at times this season.
The Wildcats hung in there early, taking a two-point advantage, 31-29, into the halftime break, but Farmington ultimately left with the victory, 63-56.
Junior Jaden Akins, who holds an offer from Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans, poured in a game-high 21 points for the Falcons. A smooth left-hander built similarly to former Ohio State Buckeye DeAngelo Russell, it is easy to see Akins’ game translating well to the Big Ten Conference.
Robert Davis, Jr., one of the state’s top sophomores, chipped in 19 points. Senior Trey Townsend led Oxford with 20 points, while junior guard Pedro Bottene added a career-high 17.
Townsend’s future coach, Oakland Golden Grizzlies legend Greg Kampe, was in attendance for the game.
Trailing 20-10 after the opening eight minutes, the Wildcats again showed the ability to claw back after falling behind early. While this speaks to the mental toughness on the roster, head coach Steve Laidlaw knows his team needs to do a better job of getting out of the gate.
“We played hard, but we dug ourselves a hole, just like we did with Southfield (A&T) the other night,” he said.
“Got behind and spotted them 12 points, they (Farmington) are an incredibly talented team. It’s tough to comeback on them.”
With the trio of Akins, Davis and junior Tariq Humes combining for 53 of the Falcons’ 63 points, head coach Terrance Potter’s team looks to have all the makings of a team ready to compete for an OAA White title.
“They have so many playmakers,” Laidlaw pointed out. “We knew they could shoot, and we were going to try to have to run them off the line. When you spot them points early, it makes it harder to contain them aggressively.”
Establishing a new career-high in points for the second consecutive game, Bottene has continued to earn more playing time in the backcourt alongside classmate Mason Mulholland.
“Pedro is really coming on,” Laidlaw shared. “He gets better and better every day. He works hard in practice. The game matters to him and you can tell.”
Hoping to get back on the right side of things, Oxford next hosted the Troy Colts in their second of three straight home games on Jan. 24.
Dating back to Jan. 14, the Wildcats have played Southfield A&T twice, Farmington and Troy in their last four games – about as tough of a stretch as possible in the OAA White.
Showing signs of receiving the message from their coaching staff, Oxford led, 19-14, after the opening frame and went in the break tied at 29. The Colts, however, pulled away late and handed the Wildcats their second consecutive loss, 62-43.
Junior guard Brody Parker, who will be a future teammate of Townsend’s at Oakland, scored a game-high 27 points for Troy. One of the best shooters in the state, Parker hit a deep three-pointer at the first half buzzer to help swing the momentum back in the Colts’ favor.
Classmate Ethan Emerzian, who transferred to Troy after beginning his high school career with the Rochester Adams Highlanders, added 12 points.
Townsend led Oxford with 16 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Junior Zach Townsend (10) was the only other Wildcat in double-figures. After being held scoreless in the Farmington loss, Mulholland bounced back with six points, coming on back-to-back threes in the second quarter.
“I thought we played so well in the first half,” Laidlaw began. “We just had a couple of breakdowns on offense that came back to bite us. But, man, those three kids – Parker and the Emerzian twins – can really play.”
The first four minutes of the second half can be looked back on as the turning point of this contest. Laidlaw’s team did not record their first points of the second half until past the midway point of the third quarter, allowing the Colts to jump ahead 39-29. The Wildcats were able to close the third on a 7-0 run but could not quite climb all the way back.
“In all four games we’ve lost this year, we’ve had long scoring droughts,” Laidlaw stated. “Against a team like this, you can’t afford to have that last more than two minutes. Basically that whole third quarter, we struggled scoring points.”
Rounding out their three-game homestand, Oxford battled the Lapeer Lightning (3-6, 0-5 Saginaw Valley League – South) on Jan. 28. Results from this game were not available at the time of this article’s publication.
The Wildcats will hit the road on Jan. 29 to square off with the Lake Orion Dragons at 7 p.m. as part of “Rivalry Night” at Oakland University. The Dragons, who won the first meeting this season between the two on Dec. 19, will be the designated home team by virtue of the Wildcats hosting the first showdown.

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