Topping the Lake Orion Dragons in their home finale on Feb. 28, the Oxford Wildcats girls’ basketball team rounded out their regular season at 5-15 (2-10 Oakland Activities Association White).
Placed in Michigan High School Athletic Association District No. 5 at Waterford Kettering High School, the Ladycats began postseason play against the Rochester Adams Highlanders, a team head coach Rachel Bryer’s girls were very familiar with.
Finishing their campaign at 12-8 (7-5 OAA White), Rochester Adams defeated Oxford by eight points in each of their two previous meetings. The results were more lopsided this time around as the Highlanders rolled to a 53-34 victory.
The Ladycats took a 2-0 lead, but Rochester Adams reeled off the next nine points, forcing Bryer to burn an early timeout. The Highlanders held a small advantage, 14-10, after the opening frame, but pulled away in the second quarter, taking a 33-17 lead into the halftime break.
Senior Nicole Claerhout scored a game-high 14 points for head coach Shay Lewis’ Rochester Adams squad. Junior Lauren Petersmark chipped in 13 points and senior Amelia Drahnak, one of the OAA’s most well-rounded players, added six.
Junior Emma Morris led the Wildcats with 13 points. Playing her final game for the program, Gabby Dinges recorded six points.
“The first quarter was the tempo-setter in the game,” Bryer shared. “We scored really early, and then suddenly, they’re up by seven points.
“Getting past this first-round has been kind of difficult for us, and I think that first quarter tonight threw us off a bit. We did fight hard to comeback and made some great individual plays, but it wasn’t what we expected.
“(Rochester) Adams played extremely hard, I’ll give it to them. They were confident and ready to go. We were confident, too, but some things didn’t go our way early and it wasn’t our night.”
In addition to Dinges, this wrapped up the careers of two other Ladycats, Aleah Dymond and Sarah Tyrrell.
“Sarah stepped up for us and really improved throughout the year,” Bryer said of Tyrrell. “Her confidence and ability to run a team as a guard, she learned a lot from it. She hadn’t played much point guard since her freshman year, but I needed her to do it and she did a great job.”
Tyrrell began the season playing off-the-basketball but took over at the point when junior Mackenzie Methner suffered a season-ending foot injury over Christmas break.
A do-everything type of player, Dinges was forced to step outside her comfort zone for Bryer in 2019-20, as well.
“In the past, Gabby had played more of our four (power forward) position, but this year she had to play more of a guard position at times, along with Sarah (Tyrrell). She understands the game so well, I have no worries about Gabby out there. She can defend anyone we need her to and gets after it.”
While this season had its share of learning experiences for the Ladycats, there is reason for optimism surrounding this young team. Bryer has nine players set to return next season, including Methner, Morris and left-handed freshman Miranda Wyniemko.
“If Emma (Morris) keeps working on her game, she has the potential to be dominant in the OAA next year,” Bryer said. “Teams try to take her away, but she still finds ways to score. She can drive, she can shoot the three – the deep three – and she proved that toward the end of the season. There’s not anything that girl can’t do. She sets her mind to it; she’s going to get it done.
“Mackenzie (Methner) can’t wait to step back on the floor again. I know she was getting antsy at the end of the season. She’s going to be our floor general. She’s going to be one of our leaders and someone the younger girls look to. I’m excited for her to get back out there.”
The Clarkston Wolves were the MHSAA District No. 5 champions, defeating Rochester Adams, 58-49, on March 6. Clarkston had advanced to the district championship by besting Lake Orion, 54-37, in the semifinals on March 4. Like their male counterparts, the Wolves girls’ basketball program is perennially one of Oakland County’s best. Coached by John Weyer, Clarkston will move on to MHSAA Regional No. 2 at Walled Lake Western High School, at 7 p.m. on March 10.