OXFORD - For seven sophomores, it would be their final game wearing an Oxford College uniform on Friday evening.
But as for this particular contest, there would be no Hollywood ending before the home crowd; no riding off into the sunset to bask in their glory.
The Macon Rebels ended Oxford's season during Sophomore Night with a resounding 95-79 victory.
"Well, they are hard workers," acknowledged Oxford head coach Roderick Stubbs of his upperclassmen. "They're dedicated and they give their all. They have good, positive attitudes and they put forth a good effort no matter what happens."
Despite the loss, Oxford (4-19 overall) received noteworthy performances from sophomores Chad Hixon, Michael Chang and Jacob Gise.
"We all get along great," said Hixon, who had a game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. "Everyone here in the Oxford community is friendly (and) wants you to succeed whether it is on the basketball court or in the classroom. It's like a really big family."
Oxford jumped out to a commanding 11-2 lead with 16 minutes and 53 seconds left in the first half after a cutting layup by Hixon.
Macon would then tie the game at 24 with 11:05 to go after a 12-foot jumper by Ray Head, scoring two of his overall 17 points.
The Rebels followed with a driving layup by Head at the 10:25 mark, giving them their only first-half lead of the game.
However, Chang would put the Eagles back on top with a wide open 3-pointer from the corner. Oxford's Makeen Sabree followed with another trey from the opposite corner, extending the lead, 30-26, with 9:30 remaining.
Macon managed to keep it close by scoring many points in the first half off second chance opportunities thanks to a plethora of offensive rebounds.
But the Eagles would have the upper hand after the initial 20 minutes, leading 47-42 entering halftime.
During the break, Oxford administrators, coaches, family and fans honored the seven sophomores with a well-deserved ceremony. Each player received a warm ovation from the Eagle-faithful on hand to witness their final game of the season.
Once play resumes, things soon began to unravel for Oxford early in the second half, as the Rebels pressed which ultimately led to careless turnovers and low-percentage shots.
"We just lost our focus and started turning the ball over a little bit more," said Chang, who finished with 23 points and seven rebounds. "That really cost us the game tonight."
The Rebels would regain the lead for good with 15:22 left after two free throws by Author Pie, making it 53-52.
Macon held Hixon, Oxford's new all-time scoring leader, to zero field goals in the opening 10 minutes of play during the second half.
"(Chad) brings his all every game," said Stubbs of his superstar. "He's a do-it-all player. He rebounds, scores, runs the point and pretty much does it all for us, but he's an unselfish player. Anywhere else that he goes, if the coach wants him to be an assist man or strip the ball, he'll be able to do that because he's very unselfish.
"But night in and night out I need him to do almost everything," he added.
For the rest of the Eagles, the effort and intensity was also there throughout the entire evening, as bodies banged beneath the boards and players littered the floor for loose balls on a continual basis.
Despite trailing by as many as 11 late in the second half, the Eagles would eventually cut the lead, 80-76, with 2:12 remaining.
Hixon led the offensive attack, scoring 14 points during the final 10 minutes of action.
"They never gave up and still continued to play hard tonight," said Stubbs. "Despite our struggles this year, they still continue to do the best they can out there on the court."
Macon would go on a 15-3 run to close out the game, highlighted by a monster dunk by Brantley, one of two throwdowns on the night.
"We just ran out of gas," said Hixon, adding that has been the story of the year for the Eagles. "We get to the point (where) we just don't have that extra something to get us over that hurdle."
Macon's Antwan Brantley, who was held to just four points in the first half, exploded for 26 points in the second half to help his team preserve the win.
Pie finished the game with 21 points.
Gise added 11 points, two rebounds and three assists for the Eagles.
"We just have a good time playing together," said Chang regarding what he will miss most during his tenure at Oxford. "The coaches are really good (and) like to focus on our education first, which is a plus."