By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Concluding their abbreviated regular season at 9-4 (7-3 Oakland Activities Association Blue Division), the Oxford Wildcats girls’ basketball program finished in second-place in the league standings, behind only Bob Brydges’ Lake Orion Dragons, a team they beat twice.
Coached by Rachel Bryer, Oxford’s final week of the regular season consisted of two home games and began with a March 18 clash with the Rochester Falcons, which doubled as Senior Night.
A hard-fought, low-scoring battle, the Wildcats avenged their season-opening loss to the Falcons on February 9 and pulled out a 26-23 victory.
Senior Mackenzie “Mackie” Methner led the way with 15 points, including the game-winning free throw with 7.8 seconds to play. Fellow Class of 2021 member Jordan Hung, freshman Payton Richter, and sophomore Miranda “Reggie” Wyniemko all added three points.
Rochester was paced by nine points from senior Natalie Rayce.
Playing their second game in as many days, Oxford returned to the Ian Smith Gymnasium on March 19 to face the Troy Athens Red Hawks.
This time, unfortunately, it was the Red Hawks who made up for an earlier loss, topping the Wildcats, 47-34.
The first ten minutes of the game went about as well as they could have for Oxford, as the program led, 15-2, after the first quarter and extended the lead to 15 points, 17-2, early in the second frame.
Behind the shooting of sophomore Ella Musto, who finished with a game-high 17 points, Troy Athens went on a 14-4 run and was able to cut the gap to five points, 21-16, at the halftime break.
The Red Hawks picked up where they left off after the intermission, outscoring the Wildcats, 31-13, in the game’s final 16 minutes.
Methner again was Oxford’s top scorer, finishing with 14, while Wyniemko chipped in nine and senior Charlotte “Charlie” McClenaghan pitched in a season-high six.
“We kind of came in slow, we hadn’t played a 5:30 (p.m.) game yet this year,” Troy Athens head coach Stacie Klumpp said. “Coach (Lori) Sweeney and I were sitting on the bench and just looking at each other as they were walking down the bleachers, and it was almost like they were walking down for a JV game and then, they just picked it up, maybe needed a little, you know, kind reminder, when we took a timeout, and then, they just came back.
“Once we picked up the tempo, and stopped dribbling the ball so much, which is really what we’ve been trying to preach lately, and just making each other better, we played a great game last night (a victory over the Avondale Yellow Jackets) and they were able to play a great three quarters again today.”
With their regular season complete, Oxford will now turn their attention to Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District No. 4 play at Grand Blanc High School, which begins today, March 24.
The Wildcats will face the host Bobcats in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m., with the Davison Cardinals, Flint Kearsley Hornets, and Lapeer Lightning also residing in the district.
Sammy Taormina, a statistician for Lake Orion, who operates an extensive blog, Inside the OAA, lists Grand Blanc and Davison as his two favorites in the district, with Oxford being his wild card.
A member of the Saginaw Valley League, the Bobcats posted a 10-3 (9-1) record in 2020-21, and are led by junior Taylor Thompson, who garnered Flint-Area Player of the Week honors from MLive on March 19, with classmates Comari Hawkins and Aniyah Small, sophomore shooting guard Riley Place, and senior power forward Katelyn Szczembara playing important roles for head coach Mike McKay, as well.