BOYS BASKETBALL: Lake Orion rallies past rival Oxford

| December 14, 2013 | Comments (0)


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LAKE ORION — Baby steps. They are a vital part of growing a youthful program that is facing many question marks.

Lake Orion, a team replacing a bulk of its points and floor time from last winter, took plenty of these little steps Friday night in hostile territory, and found the pathway to a 63-56 non-conference boys basketball victory over host Oxford.

Lake Orion still committed 22 turnovers, but found the resolve to go on a 22-12 game-closing run to overcome a 44-41 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

“We lost four starters to graduation and having John McCarty out until at least February, we’re having to find new scorers this season,” said third-year Lake Orion coach Tom Risi. “We don’t have all that much varsity experience.  We have a few guys that came off the bench for us last season and a lot of new faces on varsity. I’m proud of the way we fought back. We took some nice steps today, because being a young team we might have folded being down.”

With McCarty, a 6-foot-5 senior, fourth-year varsity veteran and Division I college recruit, out of the lineup until at least February with a hip injury, and the fact that Lake Orion lost four starters to graduation, the Dragons have had to search for other players to step up and shoulder the leadership and scoring void.

Several are starting to emerge.

Lake Orion opened the fourth quarter with a quick 9-2 run, and 6-6 junior center Nicholas Fox’s layup with 5:25 gave the Dragons the lead for good at 47-46. Lake Orion led by as many as seven points (55-48) with 3:11 to play following a 3-pointer from senior forward James Budreau.

Oxford fought back to within 57-53 on a three-pointer from junior guard Connor Elzerman with 55.2 seconds left but could get no closer down the home stretch.

“I thought we had some players step up in the fourth quarter that really made the difference,” said Risi. “I thought Joseph Turnbull made some nice plays down the stretch, hitting some free throws and making a couple of nice passes, and Zachary Greene, our point guard, was solid for us. Nathaniel Marcum and Nicholas Fox stepped up on the inside for us and gave us some scoring. We need for guys like this to step up and we got that tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played in the fourth quarter.”

Lake Orion attempted 18 free throws in the final stanza, sinking 10 of them, including five of its final six attempts from the charity stripe in the final 32 seconds to seal the deal.

“We had some turnovers and we shot just 18-for-32 from the line, but we made some big free throws in the final minute which were huge,” said Risi. “We did a good job taking charge in the fourth quarter.”

Lake Orion (1-1) pounded the ball inside during the first quarter to 6-5 junior Nathaniel Marcum, who scored eight in the frame in enabling the Dragons to build a 21-11 advantage after eight minutes of play.

Oxford (0-2) clawed back with a 19-14 edge in the second quarter. Delxino Alexander scored seven in the frame, as the Wildcats turned up the heat defensively and forced eight turnovers in the second quarter. Oxford closed to within 31-30 with 51 seconds left before settling for a 35-30 halftime deficit.

“We lost to this team by 45 points last year, so to get within five points at the half after being down 10 in the first quarter and actually leading by three entering the fourth quarter is a nice turnaround for us,” said first-year Oxford coach Stephan Henning. “We are getting better but we still have a lot of things to work on. We’re making strides as a team. We have to learn how to play in these pressure situations and make better decisions with the basketball during close games. That will come.”

Elzerman scored a game-high 20 points, sinking a trio of 3-pointers, to lead Oxford. Alexander, a junior guard, added 15 points and five boards, while freshman guard Jamal Thomas followed with eight points, six assists and four steals for the Wildcats.

Marchum converted his first five field goal attempts and finished with 16 points and six rebounds for the Dragons. Budreau added 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists and Fox supplied 11 points off the bench for Lake Orion.

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