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Bettencourt lifts Lady Trojans over Wilcox, 49-32

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Oak Ridge didn’t have an answer in the paint for 6-foot, 3-inch, 270-pound Joeseta Fatuesi, who scored 24 points in the Nor-Cal quarterfinal playoff game Saturday at Wilcox High.

The Lady Trojans, however, had the answer on the outside, as junior guard Ali Bettencourt had the game of her life, knocking down seven three-pointers and scoring 27 points in leading Oak Ridge to a 49-32 victory over second-seeded Wilcox.

“It was one of my better games,” a modest but excited Bettencourt said following the game. “We wanted to get the ball to the baseline runner and that was me. When I didn’t have the ball, I wanted to get open and I was able to get free for some open shots and thankfully I made them.”

Oak Ridge advances to the Nor-Cal semifinals Tuesday against third-seeded Heritage, who defeated the Lady Trojans on Jan. 26, 55-36 in a non-league game. The winner of the game will reach the Northern California title game March 16 at Sleep Train Arena.

Against Wilcox, Oak Ridge lived on the three-point shot, as for most of the game they were unable or unwilling to take the ball in the paint and challenge Fatuesi. Bettencourt hit seven three-pointers, while Jenn Hoffman drilled three and Haley Anderson had one, as the team finished with 11 in the game. Incredibly, they only made four two-point field goals, the first one coming midway through the third quarter.

Bettencourt unequivocally kept her team in the game in the first half, making four the team’s five field goals, all from beyond the arc. While Fatuesi was dominating inside with 14 points, Bettencourt did it from the outside and Oak Ridge trailed 19-16 at the half.

“At halftime, I just told them that they missed some shots and that they will make them in the second half,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “I thought we were too tentative in the first half, but Haley an early three in the third quarter that got her going and then Jenn hit pair. We wanted to try to wear Fatuesi down and I think we did that because she didn’t seem to have as many touches in the second half.”

Bettencourt added, “We were just trying to not give her any easy shots and we didn’t do a very good job of that.”

Oak Ridge took control of the game in the second half of the third quarter, ironically enough after their first two-point field goal. Anderson, who was stationed in the high post all night, finally decided to drive to the basket and was rewarded with two free throws after she was fouled. Though she missed them both, Michelle Barkley grabbed the rebound on the second and dished to a cutting Bettencourt, who scored an easy two-point basket to tie the game at 21 with 4:36 to play in the third quarter. Anderson’s decision to drive to the basket, Barkley’s big rebound and the team’s first two-point field goal put the wheels in motion for a dominating final 12 minutes for the Lady Trojans, as they outscored Wilcox 30-11 the rest of the game.

Following Bettencourt’s basket, Anderson bravely took a charge from Fatuesi at the other end of the floor to give her team the ball back. Hoffman then hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Oak Ridge the lead for good, 27-21. Shelby Peters’ free throw ended a 9-0 Oak Ridge run that in the end proved to be the key portion of the game.

The Lady Trojans calmly pulled away in the fourth. Bettencourt hit her sixth and seventh three-pointers around a transition layup by Nikki Dow that ended any thoughts of a comeback for the Chargers.

While Bettencourt scored 27 points, the rest of the team combined for 22, half of that by Hoffman. Anderson and Grace Derksen scored four points, while Dow had two and Peters, one.

“It feels good,” said Bettencourt of having a big game at this point in the season. “I don’t want my seniors to go home yet.”

On Bettencourt’s game, White was proud of his junior guard.

“Ali played a good all-around game,” he said. “She expended a lot of energy on defense and in rebounding and showed the complete package tonight.”