Defensive pressure proves decisive

By Blake Long/Special to the Journal

OXFORD – As the Class 5A playoffs began Monday night, Oxford coach Shayne Linzy wanted his team to be more than just hungry to win.
“They’ve been saying they’re hungry all season long,” he said. “So (assistant coach) Stacy Malone told them before the game enough with being hungry, let’s be greedy.”
Linzy and Malone had to be pleased with the greediness of the Lady Chargers in their first round game. Oxford greedily forced visiting Callaway into 29 turnovers in their 79-63 victory.
“It looked like they wanted it more,” said Linzy. “That’s how we have to play the rest of this season. Let’s go get it and take it.”
Oxford used a full-court press defense to force many of those turnovers. Erika Sisk and Meisha Gillom were the beneficiaries of bad passes, combining for ten first half steals.
Those steals turned to quick points for Oxford, as they built their lead to double-digits at 12-2 under four minutes into the game on baskets by Alexus Malone, Gillom, and Sisk.
Callaway (17-9) cut their deficit to 16-10 at the end of the first quarter, but Oxford closed the first half on a 15-2 run capped by a Sisk three-pointer to up their lead to 43-19.
Oxford built their lead to as much as 37 points in the third before Callaway scored 31 fourth quarter points to make it a closer game.
With the win, Oxford remained undefeated at 29-0 and cashed in on their bid to host the 5A North Half Tournament Friday and Saturday. The Lady Chargers will face Canton in a semifinal game on opening night.
On the opposite side of the bracket stands another undefeated team in Lanier, and Callaway coach Stacey Bailey was quick to say which team she thought was better.
“Lanier is definitely the No. 1 team in the state,” she said. “All roads to the Big House go through Jackson.”
Sisk scored 30 points to lead Oxford, while Callaway’s Jasmine Brown tallied 19.