Oxford High School senior Jarkel Joiner missed a critical front end of a one-and-one free throw-opportunity Friday night.
A make there would have halted New Hope’s late-game run.
Joiner would quickly make up for that transgression.
Joiner took over the national scoring lead according to Max Preps with a 45-point night as Oxford beat New Hope 71-67 in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 2A, Region 5 contest played at New Hope Gym.
“I felt bad about the (free throw miss),” Joiner said. “I hope I made up for it.”
According to Max Preps, Joiner’s average of 37.6 points per game leads all schools reporting to the web site. New Hope had no answers for a 14-of-30 night from the field and 14-of-16 night from the free throw line for the California State Bakersfield commitment.
Joiner will play for former Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes at Bakersfield.
“He is such a load, a tremendous basketball player,” New Hope coach Drew McBrayer said. “We really had no matchup with him. The thing is he is quick on his feet and can score the basketball from anywhere on the floor. You try to keep a star player away from their range. His range is anywhere on the floor. The thing we could have done better was to have kept him off the free throw line. Those are just free points. (Sixteen) attempts is just way too many. You can’t defend him to start with, and you know you can’t defend him at the foul line.”
New Hope (13-7, 0-2) reeled off an 11-0 run to pull within 57-54 with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left to play. Joiner missed a critical one-and-one allowing Tyler Stevenson to hit the basket to pull within three.
On his team’s next three possessions, Joiner took the ball from the top of the key, drove hard to the goal and either hit a layup or pulled back for a jumper. Three possessions — six points — and a 63-54 lead.
“When the game was on the line, he got us playing downhill again,” Oxford coach Drew Tyler said. “He got us on our toes and got us back in our offensive game. Personally, I think we tried to run the clock too early and that’s on the coaches. (Joiner) took the game back over. He made up for the free throw miss in a hurry.”
Many fans packed into the New Hope Gym to see one of the state’s top scorers play his game. However, Joiner opened the game with five straight misses.
New Hope could only ease to a 7-4 lead during the stretch. Joiner heated up late in the first quarter with seven straight points to give his team a 16-9 lead.
New Hope all-state performer Terryonte Thomas was ready to do battle as well. Thomas hit back-to-back baskets in the lane, including converting a steal by Kyree Fields into easy points, to pull his team within 20-18.
As Thomas began to warm up, the New Hope big men had to keep rotating due to foul trouble.
Joiner lived at the line late in the second quarter and helped push his team to a 32-24 lead.
“I am really proud of the freshmen and sophomores on this team,” Joiner said. “They are really growing up. We are developing into a pretty good team. My job is to keep the younger guys energized and into the game. This was a great win because we played consistent throughout.”
After Fields drained a 3-pointer to pull New Hope within 32-29, a brief power outage took place in the gym.
When play was resumed, Joiner also resumed with 12 straight points for a 49-41 lead.
Joiner continued with the first six points of the fourth quarter for a 57-43 lead for Oxford (13-5, 1-0).
From there, New Hope dug in deeper defensively, made some key stops and got back into the game. Thomas hit a critical 3-point basket and Stevenson scored four straight points.
However, holding Joiner down would be temporary.
Still back-to-back baskets from Anthony Roland brought New Hope back to life one last time. The Trojans had a four-point possession to pull within 69-66. A travel call followed and New Hope had possession with eight seconds left.
“Our end-game execution was outstanding,” McBrayer said. “In the last four minutes, we were really good and gave ourselves a chance.”
Thomas came up empty on that chance. He was fouled on the shot attempt but hit one free throw. Oxford got two free throws from Joiner on the other end to seal the win.
“This was a big-time atmosphere and a big-time win for our team,” Joiner said. “The region tournament (is at New Hope), so we will come back here next month with more confidence.”
Terry Williams had 14 points and seven rebounds for Oxford, who beat New Hope at New Hope for the first time since 2011.
New Hope received 22 points from Thomas, 14 points from JaQuante Bell and 12 points from Stevenson. Thomas and Bell each had six assists, while Thomas had five assists.
In the opener, the Oxford girls used full-court pressure late in the first half to rally for a 59-54 victory.
New Hope (11-6, 1-1) played well early and built a 15-6 lead. In the second quarter, Oxford (6-11, 1-0) applied the full-court pressure and reeled off a 17-4 run to help take a 29-23 lead at halftime.
New Hope kept battling and eventually retook a 35-34 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter on a three-point play by Alaysha Jennings. The Lady Trojans would eventually stretch the lead to 52-46 with 2:45 left.
Oxford tied the contest on a 3-pointer by Jordan Freeze and took the lead for good on a basket by Caliya Toles.
Melton had 20 points and Jennings had 11 points for New Hope. Freeze finished with a game-high 23 points for the Lady Chargers.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.