Oxford shoots the lights out to advance to state title game

Mar. 18—Defense may win championships, but scoring a bunch of points doesn't hurt either.

The Oxford girls basketball team rode some red-hot shooting to a 75-54 victory over Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons on Saturday in the Class D State Semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy to earn a spot in the program's first state title game.

"We're very excited for this win, obviously," Oxford coach Chris Palmer said. "It takes us a step further than we've ever been in our program's history."

Madalyn Barrows had a tremendous all-around game for the Blackhawks, finishing with 27 points, 11 rebounds, nine steals, and seven assists. Ella Kelsey and Jocie Finch each finished in double-figures as well, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Kyla Kelsey added nine points.

Mia'Rose Wylie was the top scorer for the Golden Knights with 22 points while Angelina Dietz finished with 14.

The contest was evenly-matched in the early going, with Oxford hitting perimeter shots and Bishop Gibbons executing inside. Kyla Kelsey hit a three-pointer with 2:30 to go to give Oxford a 15-12 lead. It wouldn't be the last time the Blackhawks hit a key three-pointer.

In the final seconds of the quarter, Barrows drew a shooting foul and converted both free throws to give Oxford a 22-16 lead after eight minutes. She finished the first quarter with 10 points.

While the offense was firing on all cylinders, Palmer was more concerned with how his defense was playing.

"We were able to move the ball," he said. "I thought we had multiple people touching it and getting good shots. But I was really concerned about our defense because we had given up quite a few points there. We started to clamp down as the game went on defensively."

The Blackhawks were a bit sloppy to start the second quarter, committing a handful of turnovers, but were able to keep the Golden Knights at bay with some strong defense.

With 3:33 left in the half, Finch hit a three-pointer to make it 32-22; just over a minute later, Barrows hit a three of her own to increase the lead to 35-24. Oxford would make six three-pointers in the first half alone and finished the game with nine treys.

"We've been gradually getting a little better as the season's gone on," Palmer said of his team's three-point shooting. "Madalyn's been there all year, Ella's been shooting all year. Kyla, the second half of the season, started hitting some, and the last 10 games or so Jocie Finch has really been lights out.

"I hope she's got one more left in her," he added with a smile.

The Blackhawks took a 38-27 lead into halftime, but Bishop Gibbons came out strong in the second half, opening the third quarter on a 9-2 run. Wylie capped the run by converting a three-point play at the 5:15 mark to cut the deficit to 40-36.

But that was as close as the Golden Knights would get for the remainder of the game as Ella Kelsey responded with a three-pointer, and was followed up on the next possession by another Barrows three to make the score 46-36. Oxford entered the fourth quarter with a 50-39 advantage and would only increase that lead the rest of the way.

With Barrows drawing much of the attention on offense, Palmer knew Oxford's other players would need to step up. He couldn't have asked for more in the team's biggest game of the season thus far.

"Yeah, we need it," he said of the balanced scoring. "Naiomi Smith made some excellent moves on the inside. Kyla, Ella, Jocie, Ava Benjamin hit a nice outside shot early. You get to this level, you're not a one-person team. If you are, it's going to be tough. We really shot it well; I mean we scored over 70, in the semifinals, that's a little bit of a surprise. The ball movement, drawing the defense, kicking it to people, and having the confidence to step up. It's great to see."

Awaiting the Blackhawks in the championship game will be Section X Champion Hammond. The Red Devils from the North Country netted an impressive win of their own on Saturday, defeating Panama 78-56.

"We've got a tall task ahead," Palmer said. "We'll regroup today, watch a little more film, the kids can hit the swimming pool at the hotel, and the coaching staff will start worrying about Hammond in about two minutes."

Oxford 75, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons 54

Oxford ... 22 16 14 23 — 75

NDBG ... 16 11 12 15 — 54

Ox: Naiomi Smith 2 2-6 6, Kyla Kelsey 3 2-2 9, Madalyn Barrows 8 7-10 27, Kadence Gallo 0 0-0 0, Taylor Smith 0 0-0 0, Ella Kelsey 4 5-7 14, Jocie Finch 4 0-2 11, Ava Benjamin 1 0-0 2, Bailey Chesebro 1 0-0 2, Elizabeth Knapp 1 0-0 2, Abby Denz 0 2-2 2, Leah Oliver 0 0-0 0, Taegan Manwarren 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 18-29 75

NDBG: Katie Alarcon-Mauricio 1 1-2 4, Angelina Dietz 5 3-4 14, Cora Jusino 0 0-0 0, Paige Moran 1 0-0 2, Autumn Davis 1 0-0 2, Tatum Liverio 1 1-3 3, Mia'Rose Wylie 8 5-11 22, Molly Moran 2 0-0 4, Alanah Kelly 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 10-20 54

Three-point baskets: Ox 9 (K. Kelsey, Barrows 4, E. Kelsey, Finch 3); NDBG 2 (Dietz, Wylie)