by Patrick Carson
OXFORD HILLS — With the anticipation of the opening day of the basketball season a week away, the Oxford Hills Boys Varsity Basketball program hosted a pre-season Thanksgiving Tournament that gave fans a glimpse into the upcoming competitive Class AA season.
Three games were on the schedule for the Vikings with the first being against Gray/New Gloucester, a team that is returning five seniors and hopes to compete for the upcoming Class B South division.
The first half witnessed both the Vikings and Patriots off to a fast start offensively and each team answered each other point-for-point with fast breaks, transition baskets and little team defense resulting in a 17-17 tie.
Between quarter adjustments and defensive substitutions resulted in a much different second quarter as the Vikings focused on team defense and went into halftime with a 35-25 halftime lead. “I was pleased with our defensive adjustments,” commented Head Coach Scott Graffam. “With Janek Luksza and Trevor Goodrich in the game, we get our hands on a lot of passes and loose balls and took control of the tempo and how we want to play.”
The Vikings turned it on in the third quarter and scored a combined 24 points, going to the free-throw line for eight foul shots and controlling the offensive glass. Oxford Hills coasted to a 71-50 victory and had Garrett Record, Chris St. Pierre, Colton Carson and Atreau Kenniston scoring in double figures.
In Game 2, Oxford Hills battled the 2016 Class B State Champions Lake Region Lakers to a defensive 46-35 victory. Both teams came out of the tip-off with a defensive mindset demonstrated by the 18-13 first half score. In the second half, Oxford Hills stretched its lead to 35-23 following the third quarter. In the end, the Vikings cruised to the win, as 12 Oxford Hills players would score a basket to contribute to the victory.
In Game 3, the Class A Medomak Panthers, a team that in 2017 went undefeated in the regular season and are coached by future Maine Basketball Hall of Famer Nick Depatsy, turned up the tempo and turned on the full-court press to take a commanding 27-11 lead into halftime.
“I’ve never seen a worse half of basketball.” replied Coach Graffam. “I know our legs were tired, but we couldn’t put it in the hoop, we couldn’t get it across half court, we were not good and the score showed it.”
In the second half, the roles were quickly reversed as it was the Vikings that came out in a full-court press and forced eight third quarter turnovers against the Panthers to finish the quarter with a 41-32 score. Tipped passes, diving on the floor for loose balls and making the extra pass for an open shot seemingly allowed Oxford Hills to find a formula for success that had been missing. The Vikings outscored the Panthers 23-16 in the 4th quarter as Spencer Strong, Will Dieterich, Hunter Labossierre and Johnny Pruett all contributed to the chaos of the comeback.
Ultimately, the Panthers would win with free-throws 58-55, but Oxford Hills may have found its team identity heading into the season. “We’re a really, really tough group of young men who love to compete,” concluded Graffam. This community is going to enjoy how hard these boys play.”
Oxford Hills begins its season on the road at Edward Little on Friday, Dec. 8 and plays their first home game on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. versus arch rival Bangor Rams.