TUPELO – For the first 31 minutes of the contest, it didn’t look like Oxford coach Drew Tyler was going to win his 500th game, but as his team has done for much of the season, his team rallied and closed out another close game with a win.
The Oxford Chargers trailed by as many as 12 points throughout the game and overcame an 11-point second half deficit to defeat the Tupelo Golden Wave 59-56 to give Tyler his 500th career head coaching win, but more importantly as Tyler points out is that Oxford got a huge road division win and starts off Division 2-6A play on the right foot.
“Five-hundredth win, awesome,” Tyler said. “Better than that, 1-0 in (Division 2-)6A play. We’re winning on the road, being the 500th win in 667 games just makes you think back, slow down, and enjoy moments you’ve had. Think back about those moments, enjoy this, and make sure I’m helping student-athletes. You can get in a rat race, you can kinda lose your focus.”
Tupelo (14-5 overall, 0-1 in Division 2-6A) led for about 30 minutes of game time after they broke a 2-2 tie early in the first quarter until less than a minute left in the fourth quarter with the Golden Wave leading 56-55 before back-to-back turnovers led to Drew Bianco layups down the stretch. Tyler stresses that in order to beat Oxford this year, those teams have to play from the opening tip to the final horn.
“Our kids play so hard. When we come up against teams like Tupelo and some of the ones in the Smoky Mountain Classic, we run out of basketball players. With Drew Bianco and Hiram Wadlington at the lead and those guys following, you have to play 32 minutes to beat us. It feels good to be 1-0 in (division play).”
A critical player that helped Oxford (13-2) key the fourth quarter comeback was freshmen guard Derrius Southern who was fouled twice on jump shots, one being a 3-point attempt, and made all five free throws that really helped narrow Tupelo’s lead. Tupelo was held offensively to just three fourth-quarter points.
“You have to watch him behind the three-point line and he feels comfortable on the free throw line,” Tyler said about Southern critical fourth quarter plays. “He stepped up. That’s a great feeling to have a ninth grader in your program like that.””
Southern finished with those five points during his time in the game. Bianco and Tucker Scott each had a game-high 16 points to lead Oxford. Saltillo-transfer Jayven Humphrey had 10 points to lead Tupelo, but was plagued with foul trouble all night limiting his time on the court.
Oxford girls coach Cliff Ormon isn’t big on moral victories, but he felt like his Lady Chargers earned a couple in their 67-50 loss to Tupelo.
Oxford (2-14, 0-1) came out of the gates firing offensively in the first quarter and held a 15-14 lead late in the quarter. Points have been hard to come by for Oxford all year long and Ormon was pleased to see some execution on offense.
“I thought we executed a little better and got some layups on the backside,” Ormon said. “With this team, we’ve had some players out with injury, we have one senior out there. We have to make those multiple-effort plays where we’re doing it over and over. We can’t get tired of doing it right. We got a lead, but we’ve got to keep making those plays not just on offense, but also on defense.”
Another player Ormon credited as a much needed three-point threat was Claire Wootten who finished with a career-high 15 points on 3-for-5 shooting behind the arc and also tallied five assists. Briunna Ducksworth also had a game-high 15 points to lead for Oxford. Tupelo (12-4, 1-0) was led by Randasia Crayton’s 17 points.