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West Point boys use pressure to beat Oxford

 

Scott Walters

 

WEST POINT - West Point High School boys basketball coach Brad Cox sometimes feels like a child with a new toy car. 

 

The question is how fast can he make it go? 

 

In his third season as coach of the Green Wave, Cox and his players like to go fast. Whether it's on offense or defense, the key to success is getting things done quickly. 

 

The model worked to perfection again Friday night as West Point defeated Oxford 81-67 in a Class 5A, Region 2 game. 

 

"We go fast," West Point junior point guard A.J. Jones said. "In practice, we go fast. In warmups, we go fast. If we are on the court, we are trying to get something done as quickly as possible." 

 

West Point likes to play an up-tempo style, which involves everybody crashing the boards and anybody on the court eligible for a quick shot. It is just as aggressive on the defensive end, and Friday it used intense pressure to take Oxford out of its game. 

 

"We have length and speed, so we try to use that to our advantage," Cox said. "We try to do the things that we do best. We are aggressive at playing the passing lanes. Our length makes it difficult for the other team to get the pass they want. The key for us is offense. If we can get a couple of players in good rhythm, we have a chance." 

 

The victory allowed West Point (13-8, 2-1 region) to reclaim sole possession of the top spot in the region standings. West Point will complete its region schedule with games at New Hope (Tuesday), at home against Saltillo (Friday), and at Oxford (Feb. 4). 

 

The region tournament begins Feb. 12 at New Hope. 

 

"We are excited about the playoffs," West Point junior forward Juan Davis said. "We think we are beginning to realize our full potential. All the glory goes to God for giving this opportunity. I am excited about making a run here at the end of the year, because I think we have the players who can do it." 

 

Oxford (8-10, 1-2) proved no match after the initial stages. The Chargers built a 12-2 lead as the Green Wave struggled to get the ball into the front court and to run an offense.  

 

Still, Cox's team didn't panic. 

 

"We have falling behind a lot here lately," Cox said. "We have to get that fixed because you really can't do that against an elite team you might face in the playoffs. To our credit, we don't get discouraged and we keep working at it. However, we have to find a better way to get games started." 

 

West Point rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit last week to beat New Hope. It trailed by 13 in the first quarter of a loss to Starkville one day later. This time, the Green Wave closed the quarter on a 15-5 run to build a 21-19 after one quarter. David did most of that damage with 10 straight points, including a pair of 3-pointer. 

 

"Juan is 6-2, so he has some good size," Cox said. "We can play him up top and he can make the 3-point shot. That provides a difficult matchup for the other teams." 

 

The Green Wave showed their versatility in the second quarter, working the ball inside to Lyndon Johnson for baskets. Jones caused problems at midcourt and had four steals in a stretch of six Oxford possessions. 

 

The fast pace plagued the Chargers, as West Point built a 39-29 halftime lead. 

 

"The turnovers really get us going on offense," Jones said. "Once we get some baskets in transition, everybody feels good. We try to force the issue and sometimes that bothers the other team." 

 

Jones scored eight straight points in the third quarter as the lead ballooned to 20. 

 

"When everybody scores, we can be a difficult team to beat," Davis said. "Even though we usually score a lot of points, we just can't lose track of what we are doing on defense. We have to rebound, guard hard and play hard. This team has a lot of fun together and it shows on the court." 

 

Last season, West Point won the region tournament for the first time in 23 seasons. The season ended with a first-round playoff loss to Provine. The goal this season to build on that success. 

 

"In my first year, we were division runner-up and made the playoffs," Cox said. "Last year, we won the district. Now, the goal is to take that next step and punch a ticket to the North State playoffs. This is a team that is capable of getting that done. 

 

"A lot of these players did not see a lot of playing time last year. However, they were in the practices. They were on the road trips. They were on the bench watching the games. They know what it takes to be on a championship team. I am proud they have worked this hard to build on last season." 

 

Jones led the Green Wave with 18 points, while Davis added 16. Peair Howard added 13, while Diquan Ewing had 12. 

 

Michael Bianco led Oxford with 18. Justin Hill and K.T. McCollins each had 16. 

 

In the opener, the defending Class 5A state champion Oxford girls won 81-35. 

 

Alexus Malone (21 points) led Oxford (16-4, 2-1), while Janesha Johnson and Amber Sisk each had 15. Alexis Gates had 13 for West Point (7-12, 1-2). Qiayon Bailey had 12.

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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