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Oxford basketball splits Region 2-5A tourney openers

COLUMBUS — One of Oxford’s basketball teams knows they will play at home next week to begin the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs. The only thing left to figure out is if it will be in the first or second round. The first night of the Region 2-5A basketball tournament at New Hope High School was Tuesday night as the Chargers split their opening-round games

The boys got the night started with an emphatic 78-53 win over West Point to advance to Friday’s tournament championship game against New Hope at 7:30 p.m. It was the third time Oxford defeated the Green Wave this season.

“Lifting that region championship up means that you’re one win away from Jackson,” Oxford head coach Drew Tyler said after the game. “We’ve been to Jackson the past two years and that’s what we’re trying to do and defend that Region 2-5A championship.”

Things were close for a little more than a half until Oxford star Jarkel Joiner did what he always does — take over a game. Joiner scored a game-high 41 points to give Oxford a chance to win their third region tournament championship in as many years.

West Point hung with the Chargers in the first half as the score was 31-21 at halftime. Midway through the third quarter, West Point trailed 45-30, but Oxford then outscored them 33-23 the final quarter and a half.

“I like our defensive effort in the first half, but 10 points is too close because we’re known to give up points in bunches,” Tyler said. “I think my team was more patient than I was tonight. I wanted it to happen early. I wasn’t really wanting singles and doubles. We wanted home run, home run, home run. But we stayed with it and fortunately we were able to push that 10-point lead out.”

Third time not the charm

It is tough to beat a team twice in one season, let alone three times and twice in the other team’s gym. Oxford’s girls nearly did just that, though, as they rallied but fell short against New Hope in a 51-48 loss. The Lady Chargers will now face Saltillo in the consolation game on Thursday at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to the playoffs next week.

“Every time we played (New Hope), it’s a game of swings,” Oxford head coach Cliff Ormon said. “Tonight, I don’t think we had the lead after the first three minutes of the game. Every time we’d make a run, a turnover would come back to bite us.”

New Hope tried to put the game away early, taking a 17-8 lead after the first quarter. Oxford’s defense proved up to the challenge as they limited the Trojans’ shots and were able to put a little offense of their own together and cut the deficit down to 29-20 at halftime.

“I thought we did better defensively stopping the drives,” Ormon said. “Early in the first quarter, we let them get going to the basket. We did a little better job and kind held that lead from getting any larger.”

A key thorn in Oxford’s side in the second half was New Hope’s Alex Melton, who scored 17 points with most of them coming in the third quarter and from behind the 3-point line. Melton just made herself at home on the left corner of the floor and her teammates kept finding her.

“In the third quarter, (Melton) really hurt us,” Ormon said. “We knew she could shoot it there. I should have made a better adjustment or made sure not to leave her there.”

Kelsey Wilborn led Oxford with 19 points while Christina Owens scored 14.