Oxford's historic season ends in state championship loss to Hammond

Mar. 19—Regardless of the result, Sunday's state championship game represented the greatest season in the history of Oxford girls basketball. The Blackhawks just wished that result could've gone the other way.

Oxford fell to Hammond 61-37 in the Class D State Championship at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The brilliant offense that the Blackhawks displayed in Saturday's 75-54 semifinal win over Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons went cold against a Red Devils squad that dominated with physicality, length, and athleticism.

"We've got to give credit to an outstanding Hammond team," Oxford coach Chris Palmer said. "Their athleticism and length, at the Class D level you don't see that too often. There was no weakness on the court; they had five excellent players and it showed today. We want to give full credit to them and their coaching staff and their community."

Madalyn Barrows led the scoring for Oxford with 16 points while Ella Kelsey also finished in double-digits with 11 points.

Hammond's Hailee Manning was the game's top scorer with 19 points, while Ava Howie scored 18, Landree Kenyon had 13 and Sadey Sprabary had 10. The Red Devils hit nine three-pointers in the game while holding Oxford to just one three.

The two sides traded baskets in the early going, though by the end of the period it was Hammond that was converting more of its shots. The Red Devils took a 14-8 lead at the 1:45 mark and finished the first with an 18-12 advantage.

Hammond was winning nearly every rebound at both ends of the court, as Oxford simply wasn't able to match up physically. The lopsided battle on the boards led to long offensive possessions for Hammond while Oxford frequently went one-and-done.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Howie midway through the quarter made the score 29-16 for Hammond. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, were forced into numerous turnovers, as the smooth, confident passing of Saturday was disrupted by the Red Devils' relentless defense.

Barrows hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the half to stop the bleeding, but Oxford trailed 33-19 heading into the locker room.

In the third quarter, Oxford began to make more baskets but wasn't getting any stops on the defensive end. Hammond took a 43-25 lead at the 3:40 mark and was up 49-31 after three quarters.

Kenyon all but sealed the victory early in the fourth quarter when she came up with a steal and score and then hit a three-pointer on the next possession to make it 54-31 with 5:05 left to play.

Palmer said that while his team didn't play its best game, Hammond's performance was the deciding factor.

"It was 100 percent Hammond," he said. "Their length, their agility. We've seen tough teams throughout the year like Chenango Forks and Unatego. None of them quite have the combination of length and speed that Hammond had, and obviously nobody in Class D did all year. They strategically didn't do anything we hadn't seen but they did it better than anybody else we've seen for sure. That's a complete credit to them, their girls, their coaches. It's just an outstanding group that Hammond has."

For Palmer and company, it's a disappointing ending to an incredibly successful season: a 22-6 overall record, the program's first Section IV title since 2003 and first ever state title game appearance.

"Disappointed, obviously," he said. "I've always said the further you go, the harder it is at the end. It's very heartbreaking. We've got seven seniors. We're going to miss them tremendously, not just as athletes, but as students, people in the community. They show up and they ref our youth league games, they've got a 94 average." It was at this point Palmer became visibly emotional, able only to add, "They're great kids."

While next year's Blackhawks lineup will look noticeably different, Palmer said that the foundational success of the 2022-23 season will only serve to benefit the program moving forward by giving young players something to emulate.

"The hope is that every time I see one of our modified players or our OISB players, I'm saying, 'Boy this is fun. We should try this again,'" he said. "I hope that they're looking up to these girls because as I said they're not only good athletes, they're good citizens. They're good in the classroom. You can't go wrong if you keep building those things so I certainly hope we can continue to do that."

Hammond 61, Oxford 37

H ... 18 15 16 12 — 61

O ... 12 7 12 6 — 37

H: Mia Tulley 0 0-0 0, Mikayla Jones 0 0-0 0, Ava Howie 7 0-0 18, Laurell Vinch 0 1-2 1, Isabelle Woodcock 0 0-2 0, Landree Kenyon 5 2-4 13, Zoey Cunningham 1 0-0 3, Sadey Sprabary 5 0-0 10, Hailee Manning 7 2-4 19, Raelee Downs 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 5-12 61

O: Naiomi Smith 3 0-0 6, Kyla Kelsey 0 2-2 2, Madalyn Barrows 7 1-2 16, Kadence Gallo 0 0-0 0, Taylor Smith 0 0-0 0, Ella Kelsey 5 1-1 11, Jocie Finch 0 0-0 0, Ava Benjamin 0 0-0 0, Bailey Chesebro 0 0-0 0, Elizabeth Knapp 0 0-0 0, Abby Denz 0 0-0 0, Leah Oliver 0 0-0 0, Taegan Manwarren 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 4-5 37

Three-point baskets: H 9 (Howie 4, Kenyon, Cunningham, Manning 3); O 1 (Barrows)