BY DAN STICKRADT
OXFORD — Each time Erika Davenport blocks a shot, it serves up a dose of energy Clarkston’s way. That was apparent again Friday evening.
Davenport, Clarkston’s 6-foot sophomore center, swatted seven shots and was a dominating force on the inside, scoring 11 points with 11 rebounds and helping the sixth-ranked Wolves upend host Oxford in a Class A girls basketball district final, 36-17.
“It gets us pumped up,’ smiled Erika Davenport of blocking shots.
“It really gets us going,” added senior guard Erin Davenport.
Apparently, the shot blocking was one of the many logs that fueled Clarkston’s fire. The Wolves won their 18th straight game and third straight district title. The key ingredient Friday, much like the entire season, is a stifling defense.
Clarkston blocked eight shots overall, forced 17 turnovers, did not allow Oxford to sink a single three-pointer and held the Wildcats (16-6) to a dismal 5-for-28 shooting performance (17.9 percent).
“I was really happy with the way we played defensively tonight,” said Clarkston coach Tim Wasilk. “We struggled a little bit. I think both teams struggled shooting the ball in the first half, but I was happy with the way we were, defensively.
“In the second half, we just started making some shots, got on a little run, worked our press a little bit. But I was extremely happy with the way we defended tonight. We took care of the basketball and got the ball inside. I was happy with the way we closed the game against a very good, well-coached team.”
Clarkston led 8-1 early, only to see Oxford bounce back in the second quarter and take a 9-8 lead on Jessica Murphy’s two free throws. That was the last time the Wildcats enjoyed any type of upper hand.
Clarkston (21-1) closed the second quarter on an 8-2 run and pulled away from there. Holding a 16-11 edge at the half, the Wolves went on a 14-3 run in the third quarter and held Oxford to only two second-half field goals.
Oxford was held to a season-low for points and saw their season come to an abrupt end. The Wildcats finished as the OAA white Division runner-up and district finalist all while winning the most games at the school in 12 years.
“We talked about it when I was saying goodbye — that’s the last time we’ll be together, in a locker room situation and that’s what I talked about with the seniors,” said veteran Stephen Emert, who took over Oxford’s program in 2011 after long stints with the Walled Lake Central boys and girls teams. “Shelby Davis and Miranda Murphy were the first two girls I met when I took this position, and they’ve been the rock of this program. Then you add Kelsey Harrison and Meagan Neff, who were our captains. They’ve helped us develop the program back to where it should be.”
Erin Davenport and Daleny Kenny both scored 11 points for Clarkston, with Kenny also dishing out three assists with three steals and Davenport adding three steals.
It was a swipe by the elder Davenport that helped boost a long Clarkston run in the third quarter. Following her theft and layup, Erika Davenport snared a rebound off a missed free and scored on the putback. Kenny also scored on a driving layup during the run.
By the time the 14-3 spurt was over, a five-point halftime lead ballooned into a 30-14 edge by the end of the third quarter.
Oxford was held to only three points in the final frame. Jessica Murphy scored six first-half points for the Wildcats, who scored just six points overall in the second half.
“They play very physical defense,” reminded Emert of Clarkston. “When a team plays that physical against you, you hope you’ll get something that can get you to the line, because we’re pretty effective from the free-throw line. We just couldn’t get there. I thought we could have got back into the game if we could have got to the line more.”
Clarkston will play Utica Ford, 40-22 winners Friday over Rochester Stoney Creek, next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the regional semifinals at Waterford Kettering. The Wolves lost in the regional semifinals last season and in the regional finals two years ago.
“This team, our coach has told us, has some of the best chemistry we’ve ever had here,” smiled Erika Davenport. “We are playing with a lot of confidence and we enjoy playing and being around one another. We don’t want this season to end.”
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