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Cagers' season ends in district play

Oxford's Connor Elzerman had a great season. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
March 12, 2014 - After winning their first league title in 33 years a week prior, the Wildcat's Boys Varsity Basketball team saw its magical winning season come to an end after a hard 48-30 loss to Stoney Creek in the MHSAA District finals March 6.

To prepare for the game, Head Coach Stephan Henning said his boys had some really good practices and he felt confident going in, but once the action started the momentum changed.

"They were nervous or upset because Stoney was playing great defense and we couldn't run our sets like we wanted to," he said. "They made every shot tough for Connor Elzerman, our leading scorer, and they didn't make anything easy for Jamal Thomas."

Even at half time when the boys we're only losing by two points, Henning said he told his team that they were "still in the game" and right were they wanted to be.

"When we started second half, they really started to get the sense of districts, which is you win or you go home," Henning added. "That loss is on me. Maybe I should have had them . . . not focusing on Stoney Creek so much, but (rather on) the importance of playing hard in a district game because it is 'win or go home' and I didn't really emphasize that."

The Cougars were led by seniors Charlie Carson and Pat Mertz who had 16 and 11 respectively. The Wildcats were led my freshman Jamal Thomas (12 pts) Alex Hesse (4 pts) and Del Alexander (4 pts).

"We had a great season and I am so proud of the team. It's special to get a number of kids throughout the whole program to buy in to what I am preaching in a year like this. Especially being a young new coach I know my back was against the wall, but I think by surrounding myself with great coaches that bought into me and had their players buy into them, I think that's what it takes," Henning said. "You have to have kids be invested in you and you invested in them. Luckily, we do have some talent and that always helps. I am just excited for my position and (to) bring what I've been taught over the years to Oxford."

As for next season, Henning is excited because he will get his core leading scorers back with Jamal Thomas, who will be a sophomore, along with seniors Delxino Alexander and Connor Elzerman.

"This year they (Alexander and Elzerman) had to lead us because they are our playmakers, but that was new for them being in the leadership role," he said. "Now, I feel they will know what I expect of them and my philosophies, and they will be able to exude that in a more confident way,"

"Also, we get our transfer back Mason Barry from Clarkston, who is as tough as they come. I am so excited for his senior year," Henning continued. "He is our biggest communicator and talker in practice and our best defensive player. For him to be able to translate that onto the court now is going to make us a very strong team."

He also noted that many junior varsity players who had a strong 15-5 season will be "itching for a varsity spot."

"That will be great, not just (thinking) their spot is there," Henning said. "You (have) got to come to work everyday for your spot and that will bring a sense of pride and ownership to our team."

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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