Jennifer TolandWorcester Telegram & Gazette
HOLDEN — The Wachusett Regional girls’ basketball team had plenty to celebrate Tuesday night.
First, in a pregame ceremony, the Mountaineers honored their seven seniors and their families, then, they went out and beat Shrewsbury, 65-36, to remain undefeated and deliver coach Jim Oxford his 300th victory.
The Mountaineers cheered Oxford, and gathered around him, his wife and their kids as they held a banner commemorating his milestone.
“It’s so special being with Coach Ox for the last four years,” said Wachusett senior guard Mary Gibbons, who scored a game-high 25 points. “He’s just an amazing coach. We’re so fortunate to be coached by him. It’s such a privilege. For him to get his 300th win is really awesome.”
Wachusett, the No. 3 team in the latest MIAA Division 1 power rankings, ran its record to 14-0, 7-0 in Mid-Wach A.
In Oxford’s 17 seasons at Wachusett, his winning percentage is .829.
“It’s an honor to be on the team that got the 300th win,” senior forward Rileigh Leary said.
Oxford guided the Mountaineers to eight Central Mass. Tournament final appearances — including five straight from 2014-15 to 2018-19 — and three CMass titles in the old tourney format. The last two seasons, in the statewide setup, Oxford has taken the Mountaineers to the state semifinals each year.
Wachusett, which has not allowed a team to score 50 points this season, certainly seems primed to make another run at its first state title this winter.
When Oxford took over the Wachusett program in 2007, he set out to start a travel league program to develop youngsters and prepare them for the high school team, and create a winning culture.
With the help of Wachusett’s dedicated parents, support from his assistant coaches and Wachusett athletic director Jennifer Lynch, and, of course, the hard work of his players, Oxford has done all that, and more.
“So much credit goes to everyone around me,” Oxford said. “It’s not just me. It’s an honor to coach all the players we’ve had at Wachusett. They are hard-working players and great people, and their families are awesome.
"My assistant coaches work very, very hard, and Jen Lynch is the best AD we could ever have. She just wants us to be successful and do things the right way. I’ve been real lucky I’ve had good people around me.”
Oxford is an English teacher at Leominster High.
“Besides his family and the school he works at,” Gibbons said, “this team is what he’s consumed with, and he puts so much time and effort into it. We appreciate that, and we’re so proud of him.”
Oxford had the same to say about his senior septet — Gibbons, Leary, Liz Cain, Hannah Best, Olivia Reidy, Caitlin Ciccone and Lilly Chaisson. Ciccone and Chaisson rejoined the basketball team this year after a couple of seasons of not playing.
“I’m really happy for the seniors,” Oxford said. “They’re a special group that has a lot of history together. They are skilled, but they are just tremendous people. I’m so lucky to be able to coach those kids.”
Green and white streamers hung from the entrance to the gym, and posters for each senior decorated the bleachers.
“We watched the seniors go through Senior Night the last three years, and it’s weird to be in this position,” Gibbons said. “It’s emotional and so special. We’re lucky to have such a great team, and it will be hard to leave at the end of this season, but we’re just focusing on getting better.”
Against Shrewsbury, Gibbons sank five 3-pointers and dished out six assists. Sophomore Jaelynn Scott scored 11 points and Best eight. Leary added seven points and five assists.
Senior Amanda Kalinowski led Shrewsbury (9-5, 3-3) with 11 points.
Kalinowski and freshman Addison O’Connor helped Shrewsbury take an early 7-4 lead, but the Mountaineers scored the final 10 points of the first quarter, and extended their run to 15-0 on Gibbons’ 3 and Best’s layup, off a pass from Gibbons, to open the second quarter.
Gibbons, Leary and Scott keyed Wachusett’s transition game early in the third, and Scott’s breakaway layup, off a pass from Leary, capped an 18-2 spurt to open the second half.
“We played really well as a team,” Leary said. “We executed what we were supposed to do. Everybody did their job, and that’s why we have the outcome that we do.”
—Contact Jennifer Toland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @JenToland.
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Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team:
The article discusses the Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team. They recently celebrated their seven seniors and their families in a pregame ceremony. The team, led by coach Jim Oxford, achieved a significant milestone with their victory over Shrewsbury, marking Oxford's 300th win. The team is currently undefeated with a record of 14-0 and is ranked third in the MIAA Division 1 power rankings.
Coach Jim Oxford:
Coach Jim Oxford has been coaching the Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team for 17 seasons. Under his guidance, the team has achieved remarkable success, including eight Central Mass. Tournament final appearances and three CMass titles. In the last two seasons, the team has reached the state semifinals. Coach Oxford is highly regarded by his players and is known for his dedication and hard work. He has created a winning culture within the team and has been instrumental in their success.
Senior players and their contributions:
The article mentions the seven senior players of the Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team. These players, including Mary Gibbons, Rileigh Leary, Liz Cain, Hannah Best, Olivia Reidy, Caitlin Ciccone, and Lilly Chaisson, have been an integral part of the team's success. They have shown exceptional skills and are described as tremendous individuals. Their contributions, both on and off the court, have been crucial to the team's achievements .
Winning culture and development of young players:
Coach Oxford's approach to coaching includes the development of young players through a travel league program. He aimed to create a winning culture within the team and prepare young players for the high school team. With the support of dedicated parents, assistant coaches, and the school's athletic director, Coach Oxford has successfully built a program that focuses on hard work, skill development, and teamwork. This approach has contributed to the team's success .
Future prospects and state title aspirations:
The Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team has shown great potential and is considered a strong contender for the state title this winter. With an undefeated record and a strong defensive performance, the team seems well-prepared for another successful season. The players are focused on continuous improvement and are determined to make the most of their remaining time together as a team.
In summary, the article highlights the achievements of the Wachusett Regional girls' basketball team, their dedicated coach Jim Oxford, and the contributions of the senior players. The team's success can be attributed to their winning culture, development of young players, and a strong focus on teamwork. They are currently undefeated and have high aspirations for a state title.