February 29, 2012 - It looks like the Oakland Activities Association's Boys Basketball Gold division is going to come down to the final week of the regular season.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, the Wildcats had a chance to capture their first league title since 1981 if they could beat Birmingham Groves on the road.
However, Groves didn't feel like cooperating. The Knights jumped out to a 14-9 lead after the first quarter and rode the momentum to a 63-51 win.
Both teams now stand at 6-2 in the OAA Gold division.
"It was a tough game; it was a physical game," varsity head coach Paul Marfia said. "In the beginning, we were stagnant on offense, and I think that was a struggle for us."
Groves extended their lead to 31-17 by halftime. The Wildcats struggles continued in the second half as Oxford fell behind by 28 points early in the fourth quarter.
Marfia said his team switched from settling for outside shots that weren't falling to attacking the basket from that point on.
"We just had nothing to lose, so we went right at them. He (Yante Maten) drew a couple fouls and got a technical. He fouled out of the game and we started pressing and good stuff happened out there," Marfia said.
Kitchner scored nine of his 18 points in the quarter, while senior Mark Hazelwood added six of his 11 points.
According to Marfia, Groves length really affected the game.
"You get a shot blocked or you see a big body in there, I think that sort of effected us," Marfia said. "It's a game of inches. They had a couple inches in height and length on their arms and a couple inches in the shots. Mark (Hazelwood) had some good looks that just rattled in and rattled out; Bennie Magdelano had some good looks, Connor Elzerman had some good looks on three-pointers."
"If they would have fallen, the zone would have been totally different; but tonight, they didn't fall for whatever reason," Marfia continued. "I'll give credit to their defense and their long arms."
Even though he was disappointed with the loss, Marfia was still pleased with the fight his team showed.
"Our effort was there; we competed the whole game and battled with them...they competed; stuck together and never gave up and battled the whole time," he said. "When you are down 28, you could easily fold the tent – the kids didn't."
Oxford plays their final two regular season games at home.
Tuesday they face Royal Oak before closing out the regular season against Bloomfield Hills Andover on Thursday, March 1.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.