By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Without any timeouts left to gather his team to develop a set play, Tupelo coach Grant Pate could do nothing but watch the final seconds of his team’s game at Oxford.
Trailing by three points following two free throws by Oxford’s Nick Brown, Golden Wave guard Rashon Coleman brought the ball down the court with 12.2 seconds remaining.
After dribbling the ball into traffic with two men near him, Coleman’s game-tying attempt hit the back of the iron and Oxford claimed a hard-fought 61-58 victory.
“We didn’t have any time outs and if we’d had one we could had gotten in something different out of it,” said Pate. “He’s our leading shooter percentage wise and he’s the guy you’d want to take it.”
Trailing 47-43 entering the fourth quarter, Tupelo would catch up and tie the game with 56 seconds left on Dajon Reno’s three-pointer.
However, after two consecutive Tupelo timeouts, Oxford would go the length of the court with Romeo Johnson setting up Justin Fondren’s go-ahead basket with 45 seconds remaining.
“We knew it was gonna be a grind-it-out basketball game, and it was,” Pate said. “Every game you go into you want a chance to win and we had that chance.”
With second-leading scorer Luke Gibbs out with an ankle injury, Oxford (7-1) would settle down and run set plays in the second half after a high-paced opening half.
“They (Tupelo) played more zone tonight than they normally play,” Oxford coach Drew Tyler said. “My kids kinda improvised and switched some things.”
Oxford, No. 2 in the Daily Journal’s rankings, used a 16-4 run capped by Brown’s first of twelve points to end the first half to take a 34-30 lead to the locker room.
The Golden Wave (4-4) held a 19-15 lead after the first quarter, which included a one-handed Reno dunk off a fast break.
Fondren, who led all scorers with 21 points and added 11 rebounds for a double-double, would give Oxford their first lead of the game on a tip in just before halftime.
Tupelo, led by Reno’s 20 points, would tie the game three times in the second half but would not lead again.