By Teddy Rydquist
Review Contributing Sports Writer
Before a crowd of more than 2,200 fans in the Lake Orion High School Fieldhouse, Oxford defeated Lake Orion 39-32 on Friday night to capture the school’s first boys basketball district championship since 1993.
Lake Orion, which competes in the OAA Red division, reached the district final after beating Rochester Adams 58-42 in the district semifinal on Feb. 27.
The OAA Blue champion Wildcats will play Milford in a regional semifinal at Howell High School on Tuesday.
In the district title game, Lake Orion held leads at halftime and after the third quarter, but the Wildcats held the Dragons to just four points in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Jim Manzo knows that this lack of offense late in the game cost his team the victory.
“We had a difficult time scoring the basketball in the fourth quarter, that hurt us,” said Manzo. “Going home tonight, this will be a tough one to swallow for everybody. Oxford’s 22-1 for a reason and it showed when it counted.”
As for the Dragons, they end their season with a 13-9 mark.
In his final game for the Dragons, Wayne State University-bound center Nate Talbot was the only player for the team in double figures, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Junior Dylan Boedigheimer and senior Kyle Loken added six and four points, respectively.
The Wildcats were led by junior Trey Townsend’s 14 points and eight rebounds.
Tied 32-32 with just over a minute left, Townsend hit a turnaround jump shot that proved to be the difference in the game. Senior Mike Raisch added 11 points and six rebounds for Oxford.
Oxford head coach Steve Laidlaw, an assistant coach on the Wildcats’ 1993 district championship team, believes that playing in this district will help his squad moving forward.
“This was just a beast of a district, we knew what we were in store for and we went out and got the job done,” Laidlaw said. “I think it should help us in the regionals.”
While this is a tough ending to the Dragons’ season, it is also a good time to recognize the contributions of seniors Nate Talbot, Hunter Sites, Shayne Barkley, Kyle Loken and Jake Rydquist.
There is also reason for optimism when it comes to next year’s team. Juniors Dylan Boedigheimer, Cam Sutton, Isaiah Harris, Drew Van Heck and Jack Cummins will all be returning for Coach Manzo.
Lake Orion defeates Rochester Adams in district semifinal
Fresh off their 38-37 upset victory over the Clarkston Wolves on Feb. 25, the Rochester Adams Highlanders were riding high heading into their district semifinal matchup with the Lake Orion Dragons on Feb. 27.
However, the Dragons had control from start to finish and defeated the Highlanders 58-42.
Lake Orion won both meetings against Adams this year. The previous meeting was back on Nov. 30 and was a 51-41 final.
Rydquist and Talbot were instrumental in the Dragons’ victory. Rydquist hit two three-pointers and went 7-9 from the free throw line to finish with 17 points. Talbot was a force on the glass on both ends of the floor and added 15 points.
Sutton shared the primary ball handling duties with Rydquist, and limited the turnovers and chipped in nine points. Boedigheimer scored six points and helped Talbot on the glass.
Senior Jake Schuler led Adams with 12 points and freshman Gunner Walters pitched in 10 points.
After the game, Manzo praised his team’s intensity.
“I thought our desire was pretty good,” Manzo said. “We beat them before, it was early, and they were missing two or three starters so that was not the same team you saw tonight.”
It was important for the Dragons to come out with a sense of urgency and they certainly did. At times this year, the team has got off to slow starts and dug themselves deep holes early in games.
This was not the case on Wednesday night. Lake Orion led from start to finish, including holding a double-digit lead for the entire second half.
Lake Orion did not have long to bask in the glory of the victory though. Added Manzo, “Now we have a day to get ready and Oxford has won 20 games already.”
The Oxford Wildcats beat Lake Orion 56-44 at home back on Jan. 15.
Follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.