Schedules always have a tendency to throw up intriguing fixtures and Oxford City’s National Cup First Round tie against new local Division 4 side, Oxford Stealers - featuring no fewer than four former Hoops - brought a sizeable crowd to witness a comfortable HOOPS win.
Missing key personnel - including Craig Percival and Nathan Oyenuga - HOOPS debuted 7’3” former NBA centre Priest Lauderdale, 6’7” forward Joseph Ifill and guards Josh Sutcliffe and Danny Branigan alongside returnees Steve Dutton, Joe Wells and Desta Rudder-Smith.
Immediately from tip, Hoops’ size on the interior provided a challenge to Stealers, forcing them to shoot - largely unsuccessfully - from the outside. However, complacency on the defensive glass provided the guests with multiple opportunities to keep the score close. However, with Hoops becoming more comfortable with their zone offense, a 5-0 run helped the hosts to close out the first quarter up 20-15, holding a lead they would never relinquish.
Fuelled by a series of dunks from the explosive Rudder-Smith (29 points) and some smart distribution from the often triple-teamed Lauderdale, Hoops offense ran wild in the 2nd quarter, putting up 30 points. At the same time, greater effort and control of the defensive boards helped to dry up the Stealers’ offense, restricting them to just 13 points in response.
Leading 50-28 at half-time, the message from the coaching staff was to close the door on the expected Stealers’ rally and see the game off in the 3rd. Another solid quarter, with big offensive contributions from Steve Dutton (16 points), saw the hosts extend the lead to 70-44.
With a short-handed bench and the job done, Hoops took their foot off the gas slightly in the fourth, focusing on execution and sharing the offensive load. Accordingly, Stealers responded, going for basket-for-basket down the stretch with Oxford City to tie the last period 24 each. However, that was never going to be enough as Hoops secured a 96-68 home win.
Scorers: Desta Rudder-Smith (29), Joseph Ifill (20), Steve Dutton (16), Priest Lauderdale (12)
Coach’s Comment: The vibe around the team right now is nothing but positive and that showed tonight. I was concerned going in that our numerical weakness would pose a threat, but we played to our strengths, ran our system and saw evidence that good things happen. I’m looking forward to building on this over future weeks as we begin our D3 League season.
October 31, 2014
Oxford City Basketball Club Continues to Fortify Their Roster for the Approaching Season