The Yellow Jackets stopped a three-game losing streak with a 60-36 win over Pell City, and even better, Oxford shot out to a 20-4 first-quarter lead, which allowed Peoples to give her reserves plenty of playing time.
“Those kids bust their butts in practice,” said Peoples, who played on a state championship team at Pell City in 1988. “It’s good they got to play. But it worked out because the people in front of them took care of business first.”
No matter the lineup on the floor – and Peoples used a variety of them – Oxford essentially “took care of business” much of the night, with the exception of a small offensive slump in the third quarter. They consistently lived up to Peoples’ No. 1 priority for them – play defense and rebound.
That helped the Yellow Jackets hustle Pell City out of the way to improve to 10-9, including 2-4 in Class 6A, Area 9. That’s significant in two aspects – it’s only one fewer victory than Oxford got all of last year, and the win clinched third place in the Area 9 regular season.
That means Oxford won’t have to play the Area 9 champion (Gadsden City or Clay-Chalkville) in the first round of the postseason tournament, which the Area 9 champion will host.
Peoples called that a big accomplishment, but after the win, she seemed especially happy for her players to have a victory.
“I think they’ve gotten to the point that they expect to win,” she said. “A loss will bother them. They come out every night thinking they should win.”
Senior guard Casmine Copeland led the way with 21 points, including 15 in the second half, and afterward, she said she has enjoyed being on a team that’s winning games and believes it can pull in victories such as the one Tuesday.
“For it to be my senior year and we’re winning some games, that makes me happy,” said Copeland, who added that she believes the bond between the players is helping them play better. “We’ve been together since eighth-grade, and we’ve got a bond like sisters. We play harder because of that.”
Deanna Clark added 12 points for Oxford, including 10 in the first half. Lexie Higgins added eight, and Jordan Smith had six off the bench.
Oxford boys 45, Pell City 32: Late in the first quarter, Oxford coach Joel Van Meter brought his top player, senior Deon Wright, to the bench and gave him a stern lecture, starting off with a loud, “What are you doing?”
Van Meter thought Wright was playing impatient, which was hurting his game and the team’s approach. Considering the way Wright responded, perhaps Van Meter should give him that lecture before tipoff of every game.
Wright produced 22 points and generally made the night miserable for Pell City.
“I expect a lot of him, and any time you challenge that kid,” Van Meter said, “he gets even better.”
Van Meter mentioned Wright’s improved patience as a factor for Oxford, but the senior also appeared to produce something good whenever the Yellow Jackets needed it.
For example, with more than seven minutes to play, Pell City had sliced Oxford’s 18-point lead to 12 and appeared ready to cut into it some more. Wright dribbled through Pell City’s pressure defense, worked his way to the basket and put up a 5-foot floater … which missed. But before anybody else left the ground, Wright maneuvered himself into position, grabbed the rebound and put it back in.
Pell City never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
“The bottom line, he’s our guy,” Van Meter said. “In my opinion, he’s as good as any around here.”
Solomon Shadrix added eight points for Oxford (4-14, 2-4), which broke a four-game losing streak.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at 256-235-3570 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.