December 14, 2011 - A new era is beginning for the varsity girls basketball team.
Front row: Sarah Davis, manager Middle row (L-R): Cheryl Banas, Samantha Medici, Miranda Murphy, Coach Emert, Coach Herrick, Courtnee Sellers, Kelsey Harrison, Michelle Gilmore Back row (L-R): Haley Mince, Meagan Neff, Katie Bearse, Shelby Davis, Jessica Murphy (click for larger version)
Steve Emert, a long time boys and girls basketball coach at Walled Lake Central High School, took over the program following the resignation of Al Poynter in March.
Now 28 years and 313 wins later, Emert is looking to bring some energy and excitement back to the floor of the Ian Smith Gymnasium.
"I know that my style is to get up and down the floor," he said. "I like to press, so we will be pressing the entire game."
"One way or another, we are going to be exciting, whether it's scoring or turnovers or something, you never know what we are going to do," he added. "But we will try and push the ball up the floor and we will try and press people."
Emert said his expectations for the upcoming season are simple – hard work and compete every time his girls step out onto the floor.
"If you look at every successful program, that is one ingredient that when they step on the practice floor and they step on the game floor, it's 100 percent intensity everyday," Emert said.
He is hoping the amount of hard work the girls put in this year can begin to lay the foundation for them to once again become a powerhouse in Oakland County, like it was under legendary coach Ian Smith.
"I knew Ian. We went against each other a couple of times in scrimmages and stuff like that," Emert said. "So, they have an opportunity to get back and that is by hard work and pressing and determined to give everything they have, every minute on the floor."
In order to do that, Emert needs his team to buy into his up-tempo, quick substitution style of play which can give teams fits.
"Teams get tired of seeing that same press over and over and over for 32 minutes.
He sees his team buying more and more into his system everytime they step onto the floor.
"I think that is a big strength for us that we got 11 kids that want to rotate in and out," Emert said. "They are united as a team and they want to be a team."
This year's squad will be led by seniors Katie Bearse and Michelle Gilmore.
"Michelle Gilmore is a very athletic young lady. She can shoot the ball and is very good defensively," Emert said.
Emert noted Bearse, who played on the junior varsity team last season, has made great strides over the summer and is one of the two starting post players for Oxford this season. "She is developing moves where she can drop-step now with her right hand and left hand ," he said.
In addition to his two seniors, the Wildcats have a lot of returning juniors that saw significant playing time as sophomores.
Emert will be looking towards juniors Shelby Davis and Miranda Murphy to continue their strong play at the varsity level.
"They have been on varsity also for a couple of years. They work extremely hard and Shelby has developed a pretty good perimeter shot...and Miranda is very physical inside, even at 5'9, so she is going to be a good rebounder.," he said.
Another important cog to the Wildcat machine will be junior Kelsey Harrison.
"She did a lot of things for the varsity last year in the games she started and the games she came off the bench," Emert said. He explained that Kelsey would be used in every position on the court, except for point guard, which will be shared by freshmen Cherilyn Banas and Jessica Murphy.
"People will understand they are freshmen and they are going to make mistakes in there, but they are going to grow up real quick," Emert said.
Getting back on top won't be easy as Oxford looks to build upon its girls team that went 3-11 in the Oakland Activities Association white division play, and 3-17 overall last season.
This year, Oxford plays league games against Birmingham Groves, Rochester Adams, Farmington Hills Harrison, Rochester High School, Troy Athens, Lake Orion and Farmington High School.
Rochester (2-14 OAA Red), Troy Athens (9-7 OAA Red), Lake Orion (5-11 OAA Red) and Farmington (14-0 OAA Blue) are all newcomers to the white division this season.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Wildcats have gone 1-3.
They opened up the season with a 57-43 loss at home against Troy High School on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Miranda Murphy led Oxford with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Davis added nine points and 13 rebounds.
Oxford got its first season of the 2011-12 season with a 35-31 victory over Flint Metro League rival Brandon on Friday, Dec. 2. Davis was the Wildcats offensive standout, netting 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Rochester Stoney Creek gave the Wildcats their second loss of the season following a 50-38 victory Dec. 6. Jessica Murphy led Oxford with 17 points, while Miranda Murphy added six points and three rebounds. Oxford lost at home to Romeo 47-39 Dec. 8. Harrison led Oxford with 14 points, which included four three pointers and Davis chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.