By Patrick Carson
AUBURN — Oxford Hills Friday night’s season-opening loss to rival Edward Little was a tough one to swallow, as the Vikings battled all evening in every aspect of the game, only to come up short in the end 58-51.
The game was back-and-forth throughout with six different lead changes, as each team went on offensive and defensive runs. In the end, the free-throw difference made an impact, with EL going to the charity stripe 27 times compared to Oxford Hills’ 6.
Darby Shea, the Red Eddies Pre-Season All-Conference selection led all scorers with 26 points and was the recipient of many of the fouls called against the Vikings. Shea scored 10 of his 26 points in the 4th quarter to answer the Vikings 3rd quarter surge.
Colton Carson led Oxford Hills with 21 points and 14 rebounds, including 15 in the first half, while Chris St. Pierre sparked a 2nd half surge with by nailing three 3-pointers in a 90-second span and finished with 16 points.
“This is a rivalry game, and games between Oxford Hills and Edward Little are always close,” said Head Coach Scott Graffam. “We played hard and I am proud of the boys’ effort. They battled and quite frankly played at a level that I don’t think EL expected. We can be good, but we have to figure out how to win the close ones.”
EL came out strong in the first quarter taking a 15-9 lead, with all five EL starters contributing in the scoring column. They continued to outscore Oxford Hills in the second quarter as Shea scored 11 of their 15 points to give EL a 30-23 halftime lead.
Oxford Hills stayed close with Atreau Kenniston scoring 6 points before leaving with a 2nd quarter injury and Carson going 7-8 from the field and answering each Red Eddie run.
“Losing Atreau was a big loss,” added Graffam. “He brings an inside presence and energy. We can’t seem to get our seniors on track. Between he, Trevor Goodrich and Chris, we need them all on the court and back in game shape to be successful.”
Coming out of halftime, the Vikings worked hard to offer EL a variety of defensive looks and half-court traps. A series of forced turnovers turned into a flurry of activity for Oxford Hills as St. Pierre set the tone by sparking 12-0 Oxford Hills run that put them up 35-30 in the third quarter.
Shea finally got EL off to a quick start in the fourth quarter and initiated an 8-2 run to take the lead 38-37. The Red Eddies weren’t able to create any separation for most of the fourth, as the game bounced back and forth with solid aggressive guard play.
Oxford Hills battled back to within one point on a Spencer Strong drive to the basket, his fourth driving layup of the game and Carson answered with a 6-point 4th quarter after not taking a shot the entire 3rd quarter.
“Edward Little is for real, but so are we,” added Graffam. “I was very proud of my kids because they played them until the end. If we get all of our players contributing in each quarter of each game with positive plays, we will win the close ones.”