In what could be a preview of the District 12-5A final, Oxbridge Academy proved it is the team to beat.
The ThunderWolves (7-0) traveled down Okeechobee Boulevard Monday night and beat reigning three-time district champion Cardinal Newman 69-49.
“That was a huge win for us,” Oxbridge coach Tracy Wolfe said. “It’s kind of a date we’ve had circled on our calendar. They beat us three times last year, and that hurt.”
Oxbridge jumped out to an early lead, starting the game with an 8-2 run and ending the first quarter with a 21-11 lead. Although the ThunderWolves maintained that lead throughout the game, Wolfe said she thought going ahead early may have allowed the Crusaders to make a run at closing the gap in the third quarter.
If that was the case, it barely showed. The closest Newman (4-2) came to Oxbridge was when the Crusaders came within nine points early in the second quarter and midway through the third.
The ThunderWolves’ balance allowed them to keep the scoring up throughout the game. As one player cooled off, another started draining shots. Five Oxbridge players scored more than 10 points.
“I know that we have probably six or seven girls on our team that are capable of scoring 10, 15 points a game,” Wolfe said. “So we just kind of stress every day in practice: team basketball, find the open hand, find the hot hand.”
Wolfe’s hottest hand Monday was Alexa Zaph. The sophomore, a first-team All-Area pick last year, led the ThunderWolves with 16 points.
“Alexa is one of those dream athletes, in that every practice, every game, every offseason, everything, she gives you everything that she has,” Wolfe said. “She plays hard on defense, she plays hard on offense … You know if you need a shot, you can look for her and she’s going to be the one to provide that spark.
“Her and (Aaliyah Stanley), no one can guard the both of them together.”
In addition to her performance on offense, Zaph had one of the toughest tasks of the night: guarding Crusaders star Milan Morris.
Morris, a Boston College commit who also was an All-Area pick last year, had 23 points and nine rebounds. But that did not stop Zaph from guarding her closely after teammates got into foul trouble.
“She wants the challenge. She embraces it,” Wolfe said. “She asked to guard her … It was just like, ‘Who wants it?’ And she stepped up and she wanted it, and she did a great job.”