A rewarding run for Lakeville North’s Oxtons
Father and son reach the finals at state basketball tourney
It was difficult enough for Lakeville North senior Joel Oxton to watch Osseo’s Ian Theisen take the jump shot that ended the high school boys basketball season.
Equally difficult was the realization that it was the last time he would suit up in a varsity game with his childhood friends, or for his father John, the Panthers’ head coach.
Theisen’s 15-foot jump shot at the buzzer gave Osseo a 49-47 victory in the state Class 4A championship game March 24 at the Target Center and sent the Panthers home with the runner-up trophy.
The following evening, Joel Oxton reflected on what it all meant, and what he would remember from North’s 30-2 season.
“What I’ll remember is how much fun it was to play with all my friends,” he said. “We had nine seniors on the team, and all of us played on the eighth-grade A (traveling) team. I’ve been playing with them since way back, and it was fun to have such a special year as seniors.”
The Panthers were the first Lakeville boys basketball team to have a 30-win season, win a conference title or reach a state championship game.
The title appeared to be within reach when North, which trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, tied the game 47-47 with one minute left. Osseo held the ball for 30 seconds, called timeout, then ran off almost all of the remaining 30 seconds before Theisen’s 15-foot jumper went through.
Joel Oxton said his father accentuated the positive as the distraught North players gathered in their Target Center locker room following the championship game.
“He said, ‘Just keep your head up,’ ” said Joel Oxton, who played 14 minutes and scored three points in the Class 4A final. “No. 2 in the state is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Since the Lakeville high school split in 2005, Lakeville North has had two teams play in the state boys basketball tournament, and each had two Oxtons on them. John Oxton coached both of them (as well as Lakeville High School teams that reached state in 1995 and 2004). Joel’s older brother Darren played for North at state in 2006.
By now people in Lakeville don’t bat an eye when they see John Oxton coaching one of his son’s teams. Joel Oxton said his father has been his coach since he started playing basketball.
“I’ve been coaching a long time on different teams,” said John Oxton, who took a sabbatical from the North job several years ago to watch his daughter, Megan, play basketball for Lakeville South. “If anything, I’m tougher on my own kids than other kids. It’s a non-issue. And it’s been a great time coaching them.”
Joel Oxton laughed when his father’s statement about being tougher on his own children was relayed to him.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” he said. “He could be a little bit hard on you, but that’s a good thing. I think I’m a smart player, and I got that from him.”
Although the Oxton family lives in the Lakeville South attendance area, Joel transferred to Century Middle School – which feeds into Lakeville North High School – before eighth grade so he might one day have a chance to play basketball for his father.
Joel Oxton said he and his father discussed basketball “very rarely” away from the gym.
“We talked about it all the time in the gym, but we didn’t bring it home, and I think that’s pretty cool,” he said.
He averaged 6.6 points a game during basketball season but will play football in college. The wide receiver caught 39 passes for 640 yards and four touchdowns in Lakeville North’s first 10 games as the Panthers won South Suburban Conference and section championships. He was named All-South Suburban Conference and honorable mention All-State and will continue his football career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
First, though, he will try to become the rare high school athlete who competes in state tournaments in three different sports. He’s a captain for the Lakeville North boys golf team, which returns five of the top six players from a team that finished sixth in last year’s state Class 3A tournament.