OXFORD — Plainview girls coach Luke Griggs came back to the bench to start the third quarter and lamented to no one in particular that if his Bears had boxed out better in the first half they’d be leading by a lot more than the eight that showed on the scoreboard.
It ultimately came back to haunt them.
Oxford turned up its defensive pressure in the second half and it was too much for the young visitors to handle. The Yellow Jackets handed Plainview its first loss of the season, 58-47, while remaining undefeated in the process.
“They got really aggressive, we had a hard time getting in any kind of offensive flow; our young players had hard time dealing with it,” Griggs said. “They’re pretty athletic and fast, I figured it would give us some trouble, but I really expect us to box out.”
Griggs noted the Bears (3-1) had more turnovers than rebounds. Oxford turned them over 15 times in the second half. The Jackets (3-0) scored 20 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half off the turnovers to go from 32-24 down at halftime to 56-43 ahead with 3 minutes to go in the game.
Oxford held the Bears to one field goal in the third quarter and just four in the second half. Plainview last led 36-35 on a pair of Saydi Jackson free throws with 2:34 left in the third before the Jackets scored the next seven points to take the lead for good.
Justice Woods and LaMya McGrue played big roles in the Oxford comeback. Woods entered the game for the first time in the second quarter, a non-starter because she’d been sick. She led the defensive effort and scored seven of her 11 points in the second half. McGrue scored eight of her 10 points in the second half.
The Bears built their halftime lead on the strength of their outside shooting. They hit all five of their 3-pointers in the half, with seventh-grader Sawyer Hulgan nailing three. Hulgan was their leading scorer with 11 points. She has 13 3-pointers in four games.
Oxford 69, Plainview 59:
The Plainview Bears are a basketball team that relies on their sharpshooting and when their shot isn’t sharp, the Bears struggle – or worse.
Their shot wasn’t falling Thursday night. Oh, they hit 10 3-pointers as a team – half their field goals in the game – but when they needed them most they weren’t there and they fell to Oxford 69-59 in an early season game that had the feel of February.
“I think they did a great job pressuring us,” Bears coach Robi Coker said. “We couldn’t operate the way we wanted to, especially in the half-court. I think they’re really fast (and) their speed bothered us.
“We didn’t shoot it great, but it’s probably because of them. The shooting wasn’t there for us. Our shooting was terrible. We’ve got to make shots.”
Oxford (2-1), meanwhile, got two of the biggest shots of the game from, of all places, an eighth-grader who wasn’t intimidated by either the opponent or the situation.
Jaylen Alexander, who was playing middle-school ball a year ago, hit three 3s in the game and finished with 12 points. His two big shots came after his teammates funneled him back the rebound off his missed free throw to put Oxford up 55-47 with about 6 minutes left and then 2 minutes later to put the Jackets up 61-52.
Coker thought the shots might have been the game-changer.
“We were about to get back in the game; I thought it was huge,” he said. “It’s a high-emotion game, we made a run and an eighth-grader makes two 3s. I thought that might be the difference in the game.”
Another big moment stretch came when Oxford’s Rylan Houck hit a 3 right before the halftime buzzer. It capped a furious 45 seconds in which the Jackets scored five points to take a seven-point halftime lead while the Bears (2-2) turned it over twice and missed a dunk that would have tied the game.
Plainview did get within 63-59 when Houck fouled out with 1:38 to play, but Oxford closed it out with six straight free throws while the Bears shot and missed a series of 3s in an attempt to get back in it.
Jonah Williams hit four of the Bears’ 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 19 points. Luke Smith and Cole Millican had 12 points apiece.