By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BELMONT – Oxford coach Shayne Linzy knows his team’s path to Jackson will be filled with good post players, that of which his team hasn’t seen much of to this point.
So for their matchup in the Belmont Cardinal Challenge, Linzy requested to play Ripley and their star player in the paint, Becca Ruckes.
“There are some teams in 5A that have got big girls,” said Linzy. “We have yet to see a team with a very good big girl. We knew Ripley had one, and that’s why we wanted to see Ripley.”
The Lady Chargers handled Ruckes well, holding her scoreless in the first half, on their way to a 62-51 victory in a matchup of ranked teams.
Oxford (18-0) is ranked 3rd overall in the state and 2nd in Class 5A by the Clarion-Ledger, while Ripley (18-2) is No. 2 in 3A.
Both teams poured in great defensive efforts in a close contest throughout. Oxford drew two quick fouls on Ruckes, sending her to the bench for the final ten minutes of the first half.
Ruckes rebounded in the second half, scoring a team-high 13 points to help keep the Lady Tigers, who’s 17-game winning streak was snapped, within striking distance.
While Ruckes got going after halftime, Oxford defenders turned up the pressure on Jayla Chills. The Lady Chargers held Chills, Ripley’s leading scorer, to two points in the second half.
“They did a great job in the second half of getting the ball to Ruckes,” Linzy said, “and obviously that made our job a little easier to shut down Chills.”
Ripley freshman Zaida Cox had an excellent defensive game herself against Dandy Dozen guard Erika Sisk. Cox held Sisk, who averages 24 points per game, to 20 points with just two three-pointers made.
“When the lights come on (Cox) can play,” Ripley coach Katie Bates said. “I know Sisk got her points, but your not going to stop a player like her. She stayed right there with her, foot for foot.”
Oxford’s 14-0 run in the middle of the first quarter, which Meisha Gillom led with six points, gave them the lead for good. Neither team led by more than 13 points.