Following a week in which they played three games in four days, the Oxford College men's basketball team will have a few days of relative rest prior to beginning play in the GACA Division III tournament on Saturday, March 3.
The Eagles (19-9, 6-2) will close out the regular season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, facing GACA Division I team Central Georgia Tech in Macon and then will have nine days off before opening tournament play at 4 p.m. on March 3 against Middle Georgia Tech at historic Williams Gymnasium.
"After we play Thursday, we will have more than a week off to prepare," said Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs on Tuesday. "We plan to use that time wisely to get ready for the tournament."
Oxford completed its conference schedule in a three-way tie for first place with West Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia Tech. In the tiebreaker (which Stubbs said he thought was pulling three names out of a hat), the Eagles were designated the third seed in the tournament, with West Georgia Tech the top seed and Middle Georgia Tech the No. 2 seed.
"Southern Crescent Tech, which was the fourth seed, will play Georgia Northwestern Tech, the fifth seed, for the right to play West Georgia Tech in the semifinals," said Stubbs. "We'll play Middle Georgia Tech in the semifinals next Saturday, with the championship game set for (2 p.m.) next Sunday."
Last Wednesday, Oxford traveled to Chattanooga to face the Tennessee-Temple junior varsity and lost 84-83 on a buzzer-beating shot by the host Crusaders.
"We were up by one point with 18 seconds left and their coach called a timeout with three seconds left," said Stubbs. "They came out and heaved one up and from where I was standing it looked like it could go in. They scored with no time left on the clock. It was a tough, heartbreaking loss, but that's part of the game."
Kevin Tolbert led Oxford with 17 points and was followed by Zachary Lynn (15 points) and former Newton standout Alex Ordu (11 points).
The Eagles returned home last weekend for the inaugural Dennis Spruell Basketball Classic and came away with two victories, closing out the conference schedule with a dominating 99-51 victory over Georgia Northwest Tech and a thrilling 83-81 double-overtime victory over Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) Community College.
"We got off to a good start against Georgia Northwest and led 43-27 at the half," said Stubbs. "And after the first five minutes of the second half, we were leading by 40 points. That gave us an opportunity to rest a lot of starters, which turned out to be very helpful on Sunday."
Sophomore Evan Dunwoodie led Oxford with his best game of the season, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds. He was followed by Lynn, who added 15 points (including 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc) and Stephen Simmons, who returned to the lineup after injuring his knee six weeks ago to score 11 points, including 3-for-5 shooting from the 3-point area.
Against Pasco-Hernando, which defeated Oxford 97-79 in early January, the Eagles got a timely bank shot from Ordu to tie the game at the end of regulation, and then Tolbert connected on a stickback from a missed shot by Sam Kim with 8.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime to seal the victory.
"That was probably one of the most exciting games ever played in Williams Gymnasium," said Stubbs.
Ordu led Oxford against Pasco-Hernando with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Stubbs said playing three games in four days should be helpful to the team at tournament time.
"That's good preparation for tournament play, especially playing back-to-back games," he said. "That's what we'll have to do if we want to win the conference tournament. I think our players really got a feel for what they have to do to be successful."
Notes: When Oxford takes the floor against Central Georgia Tech on Thursday, Ordu will no doubt see some familiar faces as the team includes former local players Josh Peters (from Alcovy) and Julian Butts (Newton). ... Oxford's Kim was named the GCAA Player of the Week for the week ending on Feb. 13. The freshman forward averaged a double-double of 14 points and 15.5 rebounds, along with 4.5 assists and three steals in two conference games that week. Against Georgia Northwestern Tech (a 76-64 victory on Feb. 11), Kim had 15 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and five steals, and against Middle Georgia Tech (a 75-58 victory on Feb. 7), he recorded 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and one steal.
For more information on the Oxford College men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.