Following a tough Suburban West Conference loss to Mehlville the previous evening, the Oakville boys basketball team faced the daunting task of bouncing back against the red-hot Webster Groves Statesmen on Wednesday night.
The Tigers struggled to live up to the task, and absorbed a 67-40 loss to Webster. But the team put forth a strong effort, and coach Nick Traxler explained that his squad simply left too much on the table against Webster to earn the victory.
“The effort was there tonight, it was a heck of a lot better than last night,” said Traxler, “But we missed at least 10 layups, and we missed 14 free throws, so we left over 30 points on the floor because we didn’t execute, and you cannot do that against Webster and win,” Traxler said.
On Senior Night at Webster, the Oakville senior duo of Danny Zehner and Javier Duren stood out early. Duren, who led Oakville with 12 points on the night, knocked down a pair of mid-range jumpers in the first quarter, and Zehner contributing a layup as the Tigers tried to stay in the game. Freshman Austin Gillmann added eight points in the game.
Trailing 17-12 to open the second quarter, the Tigers got physical in an effort to match up against the Statesmen press, and though some calls failed to go their way, the visitors drew some key fouls and saw success at the free-throw line.
The Tigers saw the score get away from them in the third quarter, and Traxler took the opportunity to rest some starters and give some playing time to his reserves, including junior Jaron Henderson, and sophomore Tommy Breunig.
“This is the time of year where we need to know who we can count on off the bench if a starter or two gets into foul trouble, and one good thing that’s come from the last couple of nights is that we’ve seen some strong performances from guys like Henderson, Breunig, and junior Austin Cibulka,” said Traxler.
Webster (18-4) saw an 18-point performance from junior Rayshawn Simmons, who was 11-for-12 from the line. The hosts also enjoyed a strong showing from senior Kendal Shell, who had 15 points.
Conference and district play comes to the front of every coach’s mind this time of year, and Oakville still enjoys an opportunity, despite the loss to Mehlville, to win the Suburban West this season.
“For us, we need to rely on our defense, and if we come out motivated to play strong defense and keep our opponents under 40 points then our offense has a chance to show itself and we can win some games.
“We still have a good shot at winning our conference if we can execute,” said Traxler.
The Tigers hold the keys to hoisting the conference title. Oakville is 12-10 overall, and 4-1 in the Suburban West Conference. They will host Marquette (12-9, 3-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. in a league contest. That will be followed by games against Northwest on Feb. 14 and Lindbergh on Feb. 18.