ONEONTA _ The basketball rolled backwards, headed out of bounds at half-court about three minutes into the third quarter Saturday.
Things were clearly moving in the wrong direction for the Sidney boys basketball team.
Senior guard Quinn Dorsey quickly changed course and raced to save the ball, which had been poked from his grip a moment earlier. His valiant chase ended with a violent crash into the scorer's table that knocked the lights off the scoreboards at Oneonta State.
The power came back, but the Warriors didn't.
Oxford's in-your-face defense made sure of that, forcing 20 turnovers and yielding 11 field goals in a 48-28 victory that gave the Blackhawks their first Midstate Athletic Conference championship in the eight-year history of the league.
"Pretty ugly display of basketball," said Sidney coach Mike Brazee, whose program fell to 3-1 in MAC title games. "I think it was Oxford's defense. They were very aggressive, pressured every pass, had pressure on the ball. We were very tentative and acted like we didn't know how to run half of the stuff we're supposed to run.
"Most of it was their defense making it difficult for us to run our offense," he continued. "We were starting half of our offenses 40 feet from the basket. That was due to their pressure defense."
MAC Division I champion Sidney (13-8) missed its first two shots before Dylan Umbra opened the scoring with a drop-step in the post. Oxford answered with an 8-0 run fueled by three Sidney turnovers and four straight close-range baskets. All 12 of the Blackhawks' first-quarter points came inside the paint, but Sidney kept pace with two inside baskets from Umbra, a tip-in and a three-pointer from Aaron Wood, and another three from Mike Guerriere. Wood's quick-release three, from the left diagonal with two seconds left in the first period, tied the score at 12.
Senior center Tom Gould started the second quarter with a banker down low before Umbra converted a give-and-go from Guerriere for the final tie, at 14-all with 5:56 left before halftime.
Gould hit two short shots to spark a 9-0 Oxford run aided by five Sidney turnovers, including an offensive-push foul by Wood that negated his driving layup. Umbra closed the first-half scoring with four seconds to go, hitting both ends of a two-shot foul to pull Sidney to 23-16.
"They really exploited our zone early," said Brazee, whose team won the last of its three straight MAC titles with a 64-37 rout of Oxford in 2005. "We've recently been playing zone. That's not what we traditionally tend to do. ... They did a nice job in that first quarter picking our zone apart and finding some nice things inside with (Craig) Champlin and Gould. We had to get out of that and then play some man-to-man. We were all right for a while, but the lack of offense for us is what hurt us."
Umbra scored six of his team-high 16 points in the third quarter, bringing Sidney to 30-24 on two foul shots with 2:41 left in the period. His free throws capped a 6-1 Sidney run that followed Dorsey's unsuccessful recovery dive into the scorer's table.
Oxford closed the third on a 7-0 run, though, as Champlin and Gould hit back-to-back inside shots before Cory Seiler chucked up a half-court prayer with two tenths of a second left. Seiler missed badly, but he had good reason as Wood ran him over. Seiler then sank all three free throws for a 37-24 Oxford lead.
Gould finished his game-high 18-point night with five in the fourth quarter, when Champlin scored four of his 17 points as the Blackhawks continued to pound the ball inside. The two also grabbed a game-best eight and six rebounds, respectively, and helped Oxford to totals of 19-for-40 from the floor and 9-for-13 from the foul line.
"Champlin and Gould, they're both great players," said Umbra, whose Warriors topped Oxford, 57-46, during the regular season. "Gould, he's a big guy. You can't get around him and you can't shoot it over him, obviously. ... When we were running our zone, they were dumping down low and dumping it right down to Gould, and he just had nice, easy layups."
Said Oxford coach Tim Davis, whose team fell to Walton and Unadilla Valley in the last two MAC finals: "When (Sidney) runs the zone, they bring their top guys up high and keep their bottom guys down. So you run somebody in the middle and they've got to step up because it's wide open. When they step up, down-low is wide open."
Oxford, which won its first MAC title in its fourth finals appearance, also limited top Sidney scorer Guerriere (15.2 points per game) to seven points on 3-for-7 shooting.
"Nothing was really falling," Umbra said. "Mike Guerriere's been shooting great all season. He has his on-and-off nights, but tonight, everyone was off. They played good defense. We thought they were going to run a box-and-one (on Guerriere), but they ran zone and then they ran man, and we weren't prepared for the man."
Both teams will host Section Four Class C Tournament openers at 7 p.m. Wednesday. No. 9 Greene (13-7) will visit No. 8 Sidney and fourth-seeded Oxford is at home against No. 13 Tioga (5-13).
OXFORD 48, SIDNEY 28
Saturday at Oneonta State
SIDNEY (13-8): Dylan Umbra 6-12 4-4 16, Mike Guerriere 3-7 0-0 7, Aaron Wood 2-6 0-0 5, Quinn Dorsey 0-5 0-1 0, Tyler Kane 0-3 0-1 0, Tyler Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Michael Neil 0-1 0-0 0, Nolan VanFleet 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Lissandrello 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Pixley 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Heil 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Mason 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 11-36 4-6 28.
OXFORD (17-3): Craig Champlin 7-14 3-3 18, Tom Gould 8-12 1-3 17, Cory Seiler 2-7 3-3 7, Brett Trask 1-4 2-4 4, Jeremy Nelson 1-2 0-0 2, Ethan Paul 0-1 0-0 0, Ralph Renoud 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19-40 9-13 48.
Sidney12 4 8 4 _ 28
Oxford12 11 14 11 _ 48
Three-point field goals: S 2 (Guerriere, Wood); O 1 (Champlin).
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.