OXFORD -- Although the Oxford College men's basketball team had to put in a little overtime to close out the regular season, the Eagles will be more than ready when everything is on the line this weekend in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
Third-seeded Oxford (20-9, 6-2 in conference) will square off against No. 2 seed Middle Georgia Tech at 4 p.m. Saturday in the tournament semifinals. If the Eagles are successful, they'll advance to the finals, set for 2 p.m. Sunday. All games will be played at historic Williams Gymnasium on the Oxford College campus.
Other tournament games will include No. 4 seed Southern Crescent Tech meeting fifth-seeded Georgia Northwestern Tech on Friday with the winner facing No. 1 seed West Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. in the semifinals.
"It's do or die," Oxford coach Roderick Stubbs said on Tuesday. "At this point, you either win or you go home. We've had a great regular season and our guys are well prepared for the tournament."
Oxford ended its regular season last Thursday with a 77-70 overtime victory over Central Georgia Tech in Macon. Former Newton standout Alex Ordu led the Eagles with 17 points and seven rebounds and he was followed by Roman Woodburn, who tallied 12 points, and Zachary Lynn, who contributed 10 points.
Lynn was an integral part of the play of the game when, with 6.8 seconds remaining in regulation and Oxford behind by two points, he inbounded the ball to Kevin Tolbert, who immediately drew a double-team. As the seconds ticked off the clock, Tolbert threw a no-look pass to a wide-open Lynn streaking to the basket. Central Georgia Tech was then called for goaltending, which threw the game into overtime.
"We didn't shoot well that night, but the guys played solid defense,"Stubbs said. "We just kept hanging around and making plays. That was a huge play by Tolbert to get it to overtime and once we got into overtime, we took control and won by seven points."
Middle Georgia Tech is a familiar foe to the Eagles. On Dec. 17 in Fort Valley, the Titans defeated Oxford 82-56, but when the two teams met on Feb. 7 in Oxford, the Eagles came away with a 75-58 victory.
"We didn't play well in the second half when we played Middle Georgia Tech the first time," Stubbs said. "They outrebounded us and we just had a ton of turnovers. When we played them at home, we corrected all of that and had a solid second half and almost won by 20 points. We think this will be a pretty close game, so we're hoping our home-court advantage will help us."
The Titans are considerably taller than the Eagles, with two players standing 6-foot-5, one at 6-6 and another at 6-7 (Oxford's tallest players are Woodburn and Evan Dunwoodie, who are both 6-5). Stubbs said there are several factors involved when facing a bigger squad.
"We'll try to use our quickness whenever possible to get out on the break," Stubbs said. "And we've got to block out on rebounds and allow them just one shot at the basket. We did that a whole lot better the second time we played them. Even though the previous games were a little lopsided, I think this is going to be a tight game and it's going to be a tough game."
Oxford got some good news at the beginning of the week when it was announced that Ordu, a freshman guard, had been named the GCAA Player of the Year. The 5-10 Ordu averaged 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game this season.
"Alex was named player of the year by a vote of the conference coaches," Stubbs said. "He's had a tremendous year. He's got great leadership skills and he's made big plays for us all season long. He's been an asset to coach."Fellow freshman Sam Kim was also named first-team all-conference and sophomore guard Stephen Simmons was named second team, despite missing a dozen games due to a knee injury.
"Sam is a tremendous rebounder and he's a very versatile player, which is why we call him a 'point forward,'" Stubbs said. "And Stephen has been a solid 3-point shooter and is the captain of our team. He's had a very productive year."The Eagles have won 13 of their last 16 games and are just the second team in the history of the school to record 20 victories in a season. While it's been a year to remember, Stubbs isn't ready for it to end.
"We want to go as far as we can," he said. "Having a 20-win season is great and it's a good measuring point for a successful season. We've only had two winning seasons in the history of the program. But we're not finished yet."
For more information on Oxford College's men's basketball team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.