A very young roster, only three of the 12 girls on the Oxford Wildcats’ varsity basketball team are seniors. Taking to the court at the Ian Smith Gymnasium for the final time on February 27, Oxford sent their seniors – Gabby Dinges, Aleah Dymond and Sarah Tyrrell – out in style by topping the rival Lake Orion Dragons, 53-50, and snapping a nine-game losing streak in the process.
Part of the traditional “Senior Night” festivities, the three seniors were honored in the front of the crowd pre-game, along with their parents.
Dymond sang the National Anthem just minutes before tip-off, delivering a sparkling performance. Tyrrell plans to continue her academic and softball careers at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, while Dinges, also a member of the school’s softball team, is headed south to Hattiesburg to study nursing at the University of Southern Mississippi – the same school Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre attended.
As for the game, it was the Dragons who jumped out front early, leading 14-9 after the opening eight minutes and taking a 32-27 cushion into the halftime break.
The third quarter, however, was where the momentum in the game began to swing. Outscoring Lake Orion, 12-5, in the frame, the Wildcats took the lead late in the quarter and were able to hang on for the three-point victory.
Coming alive in the second half, junior Emma Morris – yet another member of head coach Kenny Allen’s softball program – led the charge for Oxford with 21 points. Dinges chipped in 12 points, knocking down some pivotal free throws in the second half to help seal the deal.
Kylie Heck scored a game-high 24 points for the Dragons, 19 of which came in the first half. Only a freshman, Heck has as much upside as any player in the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) due to her ability to hurt opposing teams from three-point range and willingness to take the contact finishing around the rim.
The win was the first for head coach Rachel Bryer’s team since topping the Notre Dame Prep Fighting Irish, 33-32, on Jan. 17. The Wildcats rounded out their regular season at 6-14 (2-10 OAA White).
“We battle every single game,” Bryer said. “Some nights we’re on, some nights we’re off, but there’s no denying we work hard. Tonight was an ‘on’ night. A lot of the things we’ve been practicing are starting to make sense to the girls.
“To end our regular season, battling back like this, was great.”
With their regular season now complete, Bryer’s girls will turn their attention to Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) district play. Oxford was placed in District 5, hosted by the Waterford Kettering Captains, along with the Clarkston Wolves, Lake Orion, Rochester Adams Highlanders, Romeo Bulldogs and Waterford Kettering.
The Wildcats, designated as the No. 5 seed in the six-team district, will clash with No. 1 Rochester Adams on March 2 at 5 p.m. No. 2 Romeo will battle No. 6 Clarkston following the conclusion of the Wildcats-Highlanders showdown.
Oxford is familiar with Rochester Adams, having played head coach Shay Lewis’ team twice this season, falling by eight points on both occasions.
“The girls need to work together and learn from one another,” Bryer said of the plan of attack for the postseason. “I think tonight (the Lake Orion win) builds a little more chemistry and positivity for us, and we need to play with that confidence to beat teams.”
The Wildcats could possibly receive a major boost in the return of junior point guard Mackenzie Methner, as well. Sidelined since Christmas break with a right foot injury, Methner has shed the walking boot and is doing all she can to rejoin her teammates.
“Still day-to-day,” Bryer shared. “That’s all I know. Until the next doctor’s appointment, I can’t say for sure.”
The team’s primary ball-handler and quickest girl on the team, Methner’s presence on the court would be a welcomed sight as Oxford looks to catch fire and prolong their campaign with a playoff run.
Additionally, sophomore guard Kayla Casper, the top player on the junior varsity team this season, will join the Wildcats’ active roster for the postseason to give her a taste of the game at the varsity level.