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Wildcat cagers claim first league title in 30 years

Front row: Alec Drohan, Delxino Alexander, Jeremy Mullen, Connor Elzerman. Second row: Coach Chris Keenist, Coach Julian Tyler, Paul Drohan, Jordan Anderson, Alex Hesse, Bryce Clark, Connor Bandel, Coach Eric Johnson, Head Coach Stephan Henning. Third row: Jamal, Thomas, Dylan Grubb, Tyler Scott, Hunter Grubb, Griffin Ray, and Manager Julius Halliburton. Photo by Matt Johnson (click for larger version)
March 05, 2014 - The Oxford Wildcat boys varsity basketball made history Feb. 25 after winning the league title for the first time in more than 30 years by beating Hazel Park 72-66.

"I don't think it honestly has hit me how significant (this is), especially (in) my first year as head coach," said Coach Stephan Henning. "I was just concerned about getting our kids better and having them believe in each other."

To celebrate the league title, the boys cut the nets down at home after their 56-47 win against Harrison Feb. 27. While the title was "already in the bag" from their previous win, Henning said Harrison was still an exciting game.

"We finished that one in overtime," he said. "It was a thrilling end-of-the-season game"

"K. J. Justin hit a huge shot with seven seconds left to put Harrison up by 1 point. Jamal Thomas was fouled with three seconds left in the fourth quarter," Henning said. "He split a pair of free-throws to force overtime."

Oxford was led by Jamal Thomas and Alex Hesse with 12 points.

"(During) that game, Connor Elzerman suffered an injury and Jamal, our freshman point guard, didn't play that well," Henning added. "So, it was kind of good for the other guys to get a win without those two main starters."

Not only was it a great win, but Henning said it was also their biggest crowd of the season. When he first took the job, he said he knew Oxford was a big wrestling and football town, but basketball didn't seem to bring much of a crowd according to his players.

"I told them, 'People will buy into (the program) when we're winning consistently and people can see the effort consistently every night," he said. "You get people (to come) out by just being consistent with your play and playing at a high level every time you're out there."

Knowing the history of boys basketball crowds in Oxford only made the size of the Harrison crowd that much sweeter, Henning said. "Just to see people come out and want to see our last game and support us and let us know they are proud of us and what we're doing that was very humbling and it goes a long way," he said. "That last game meant a lot more than just a regular season game. It really showed us that people are behind us, which was an awesome feeling."

The boys who received a bye in the first round of districts will face Stoney Creek tonight at Lake Orion High School (495 E. Scripps Rd.). The game will start at 5:30 p.m.

"We played (Stoney Creek) twice this season and fortunately we came out on the winning end, but they won our league last year and they're a very capable team," Henning said. "It's going to be a tough game and we're going to have a tough opponent, but I am looking forward to (it)."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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