Falling 48-31 to the Avondale Yellow Jackets on Jan. 14, the Oxford Wildcats girls’ basketball team returned home on Jan. 17 to battle the Notre Dame Prep Lady Irish with hopes of snapping a three-game losing skid.
Jumping out to an early lead, the Wildcats allowed Notre Dame Prep back into the game before hanging on a for a much-needed 33-32 victory.
Ahead by six points, 18-12, at the half and leading 29-19 after three quarters, it looked as if Oxford was in store for a smooth, wire-to-wire win. Basketball, however, is a game of runs and the Irish proved this by outscoring the Wildcats, 13-1, in the final quarter to move in front for the first time with less than a minute to play.
Taking a timeout with 10 seconds remaining in regulation and trailing 32-30, head coach Rachel Bryer and her girls had one last chance to prevent Notre Dame Prep from completing the comeback.
Junior Emma Morris attempted a game-winner from the left wing, but the shot was long. Continuing to showcase her knack for being in the right place at the right time, senior Gabby Dinges was able to corral the errant rebound and score the game-tying basket, plus a foul, as time expired.
With 0:00.0 on the clock and the free throw lane cleared out with all the girls waiting in anticipation by their benches, Dinges calmly buried the decisive foul shot to give Oxford their first victory since Dec. 20.
“We’ve been learning all season long,” Bryer said. “Obviously, we’re down a big part of our team right now (junior guard Mackenzie Methner), and we’re relearning, again.
“It’s not easy to come back when you’re missing one of the bigger components of your team, but every game like this gives us a better idea of what it’s like to be in tight situations. The girls pulled through tonight; they did what they were supposed to do. Gabby pulled down that rebound which was phenomenal, she does that all the time in practice.”
Dinges finished with seven points in the contest; Morris led the Wildcats with a game-high 16. Senior guard Justina Gaynor had a team-high 13 points for the Irish.
In addition to snapping their three-game losing streak, Oxford also moved back to .500 (5-5, 1-4 OAA White) with the win. While the team is currently looking up at five other schools in the divisional standings, Bryer likes the direction her girls are trending.
A strong opportunity for the team to pick up their second league victory of the campaign, the Wildcats will next be in action on the road on Jan. 23 against their rival Lake Orion Dragons (2-6, 0-5) at 7 p.m.
The win over Notre Dame Prep marked the fourth consecutive absence for star junior guard Mackenzie Methner (right foot/ankle).
“It’s just a day-to-day, game-by-game situation,” Bryer explained. “We’re doing everything we can to get her healthy.”
The team’s primary ball-handler and the fastest girl on the team, Methner’s injury has left a sizeable void, but senior Sarah Tyrrell has stepped up in the meantime.
Methner has been on the bench for each of the last four games wearing a boot on her right foot.
Team manager performs National Anthem
Madison Pileski, a junior and the team’s manager, performed the pregame National Anthem on her acoustic guitar.
A flawless display, Athletic Director Jordan Ackerman stood beside Pileski during her performance.
“I had never played in front of that many people,” Pileski told this reporter with a smile. “I was really nervous.”