Oxford keeping pace in tough division

Regardless of the outcome, the Oxford Wildcats boys’ basketball team keeps fans on the edge of their seats.
Dating back to their first clash with the Southfield A&T Warriors on Jan. 14, six of Oxford’s nine games have been decided by nine points or less, including four by four points or fewer.
Fortunately for head coach Steve Laidlaw’s squad, the bounces went their way this past week and the Wildcats picked up a pair of critical wins to move two games above the .500 mark on the season.
A game that will likely end up having a significant outcome on how the final Oakland Activities Association (OAA) White standings shake out, Oxford topped the Birmingham Groves Falcons, 51-47, on Feb. 4 at the Ian Smith Gymnasium.
The Townsend brothers combined for 29 points, 17 from senior Trey and 12 from junior Zach, to lead the charge for the Wildcats. With junior guard Pedro Bottene limited by a left ankle injury, classmate Mason Mulholland made the most of his extended minutes, contributing seven points.
Groves led, 23-20, at the half, due largely to outrebounding Oxford early and benefiting from some costly Wildcat turnovers in the backcourt.
“We (the coaching staff) just told the guys to relax when they drive to the basket,” Laidlaw shared of the in-game adjustment.
“Land on two feet and pivot. We were making a lot of bad passes early because we were getting ourselves up in the air and off-balance. Against a team like this, we needed all five guys to rebound for us, and I thought Trey (Townsend), Ethan (Robinson) and Palmer (Speck) did a great job of doing that,” he said.
Often playing second fiddle to his older brother, it was Zach Townsend who came up with a couple of late buckets off isolation plays for Oxford to keep the Falcons at bay.
“Huge,” Laidlaw said of Zach’s impact on the team’s success. “We need him to play well. His three-pointer before half cutting Groves’ lead to three (points) was huge.”
Wrapping up a brief two-game homestand, the Wildcats then knocked off the Davison Cardinals, 54-36, on Feb. 7.
Securing his third straight double-double, Trey Townsend piloted Oxford’s attack with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Robinson tallied eight points, and senior guard Michael Houston pitched in a season-high five points.
Standing at 8-6 overall and 3-3 in divisional play, the Wildcats are currently in fourth-place in the OAA White, one-game back of Southfield A&T and the Troy Colts for a share of second-place.
Their second consecutive non-league game, Oxford traveled to Pontiac to battle the Notre Dame Prep Fighting Irish (4-10) on Feb. 11. Results from this contest were not available at press time but will be covered in the Feb. 19 edition of The Leader.
The Wildcats will return home on Feb. 14 to face the Rochester Adams Highlanders (3-10, 1-5 OAA White) at 7 p.m. Laidlaw’s troops won the first meeting between these two schools, 46-25, at Adams on Jan. 10.

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