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Olympians Add Some Stop to Their Go

  • Oxbow's Tegan McKnelly looks to draw a foul from Stowe's Colton Cunningham while driving for the hoop in the second quarter of their game in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 5, 2018. Oxbow won, 78-36. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow's Ben Emerson splits the defense by Stowe's Noah Levine and Max McKenna (1) in the second quarter of their game in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 5, 2018. Oxbow won, 78-36. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow head coach Steve Carson watches his team on offense during the third quarter of their game against Stowe in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 5, 2018. Oxbow won, 78-36. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Stowe's Rylee Laramee looks to throw around the defense of Oxbow's Ben Emerson (11) and Kyle Sweet in the first quarter of their game in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 5, 2018. Oxbow won, 78-36. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Bradford, Vt. — The Oxbow High boys basketball team is beginning to hit its stride largely because of newfound defensive intensity. The Olympians (7-5) buckled down against Stowe (4-7) on Monday defeating the Raiders, 78-36, at Mona Garone Gymnasium.

The hosts, who came into the contest averaging 64.4 points while surrendering 66.4, followed up on Friday’s stellar defensive effort in which they held Randolph to 31 points in another lopsided victory.

“We finally stepped it up on defense,” said senior guard Lincoln Ilsley, who scored 18 points, including three second-quarter 3-pointers, against Stowe. “We’re starting to communicate a lot more.”

Ilsley’s backcourt mate and fellow senior, Ben Emerson, also netted 18 on Monday. Emerson, who entered the week as the Upper Valley’s leading scorer at 22.3 points per game, hit four 3-pointers, including at least one from NBA range.

Oxbow coach Steve Carson spoke to his leading scorer’s development over four seasons on the varsity squad.

“He’s worked really hard to become a complete player,” Carson said. “He’s gotten much better at defense, rebounding; he finds the open man. When he plays well, it makes the whole thing work right.”

Kyle Sweet contributed 14 points to the Olympian cause. Sweet, who represents another solid senior guard in Carson’s arsenal, has been dealing with a sprained ankle since after the first game of the season.

“He hasn’t been right until Friday night; (it) was probably the first game since then that he’s been 100 percent healthy,” Carson said. “We were struggling to find our identity. He brings us a real tough defender, and he can make open shots; we were just missing that guy.”

Oxbow, which led 13-10 after the first quarter, began to create some distance in the second. Ilsley made a steal and hit two 3s sandwiched around a 3 by Emerson to start things off. Then Sweet made a steal and passed ahead to Emerson, who found Ilsley for a layup, prompting a Stowe timeout at 24-12.

Ilsley hit from deep out of the timeout, then drew a charge before an Emerson steal and layup — a sequence that effectively turned the contest into a yawner.

Nine Olympians scored in all, including junior Orin Mahikoa, who chipped in 11 points.

In addition to playing stellar defense, Oxbow played unselfish basketball against the Raiders.

“When we win, we always have good (ball) movement,” Emerson explained. “Times we don’t win, we find ourselves not sharing the ball as much, more one-on-one stuff.”

The sharpshooter was asked about the extent of his range in light of the long bomb in the second quarter.

“For me, Coach has kind of given me the green light from wherever I feel comfortable, and I know my limits,” said Emerson, who scored a career-high 37 points in a losing cause at Williamstown on Jan. 26. “I’d say three, four feet behind the line, probably not much further.”

Carson was encouraged by his team’s effort.

“We seem to have found a little defensive grit the last couple of games,” he said. “That and our big guys are stepping up and understanding their role and just that they don’t need to do a lot. We’ve got really good guards that are unselfish and feed them, and now they’ve kind of trusted that and they’re reaping the benefits.”

Oxbow will return to action on Wednesday at home against Lyndon.

Emerson knows how important leadership by the team’s four seniors will as the regular season’s home stretch approaches.

“It’s really important because we know time’s running down,” Emerson said. “In my four years here, we’ve lost our first playoff game every year, so we know we want to go further than that.”