JACKSONVILLE — Oxford was prepared for a time such as Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets had seen athletic, rangy athletes with a nose for the ball. They’d be in the thick of the battle against the most pressing of pressure defenses, and the experiences helped them upset top-seeded Anniston 42-39 in the boys final of the Calhoun County basketball tournament at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
“We’ve faced Gadsden City and Talladega,” Oxford coach Joel Van Meter said. “Villa Rica out of Georgia might be the best continuously pressing team we’ve faced. But to their (Anniston’s) credit, it took us a while to figure it out. In the third quarter, we started being more aggressive and it got us some easy baskets.”
Oxford (13-10) captured its second straight tournament title the hard way, banging, clawing and scratching in the paint against an Anniston squad that had amassed 47 offensive rebounds in its two previous tournament games — wins against No. 8 Jacksonville and No. 5 Alexandria.
“I haven’t lived here all my life but I understand the significance of this rivalry,” Van Meter said. “Anytime these two teams get together in the finals of the county tournament, it’s going to be an all out war and it was. There (Anniston) kids laid it all out there on the line.”
Anniston trailed by eight at 38-30 with 3:13 seconds to go but rallied to have a chance to send the game into overtime in the game’s final 13.4 seconds.
Bulldogs senior point guard Lasheddrick Edmondson strung together six straight points, including a layup with 17 seconds remaining to pull his team to within three. Denzel Roberts dove to force a turnover on the ensuing inbounds, giving Anniston a shot send the game into overtime.
Edmondson misfired on a 3-pointer from the wing. Roberts chased down the offensive rebound and heaved another 3 from the corner that barely missed, rimming out. Oxford corralled the rebound to secure the win.
“We’ll be okay,” Anniston coach Schuessler Ware said. “Good soldiers always bounce back.”
The Bulldogs (13-7) were upset by then No. 8 Piedmont in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament before going on to win Area 10 and Northeast Regional titles on their way to the Class 4A state title game.
Edmondson led all scorers with 21 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Roberts took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.
The Bulldogs looked poised to bully their way to a third-straight blowout win when they took a 15-7 lead into the second quarter sparked by 12 points from Edmondson.
But Oxford bounced back, outscoring Anniston 14-10 in the second quarter when point guard Justin Lawler scored 10 of his team-high 12, including three 3-pointers.
Anniston held a 25-21 lead at the half but the Yellow Jackets knotted the score at 30 after three.
Last year’s tournament MVP Dion Hobdy scored 10 for the Yellow Jackets and Jamal Lee chipped in with nine. Sophomore reserve Dion Wright helped key the victory as well playing big minutes in the fourth quarter matched up against Edmondson as Lawler sat with foul trouble.
“We played them my eighth-grade year but I didn’t get to play that much,” said Lawler, named Most Outstanding Offensive Player. “This was the first time I got to play against them as a starter. It feels good be able to bring the county title home two years in a row.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.