Down 20, Oak Ridge comes back to beat Jesuit in OT, 82-66

By: Matt Long
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Despite a 15-0 record, Oak Ridge High’s varsity boys’ basketball team didn’t feel they were getting much respect from other area teams or media outlets. After Wednesday night’s come-from-behind win over Jesuit in the Delta River League opener, they believe that respected has now been earned. “This was a huge win,” Oak Ridge’s Tyler Simms said. “We weren’t getting much respect because of our preseason schedule, but we showed what we are made of tonight.” Oak Ridge coach Bob Christensen added, “You have to earn your respect. After tonight, I hope we’ve earned it, for the kids’ sake.” Down by 20 points, 41-21, with 5:35 to play in the third quarter, Oak Ridge was well on its way to suffering its first loss. The team had trouble scoring against a tough Jesuit defense and couldn’t gain any momentum to start a run. The team chipped the lead down to 10 after three quarters, 46-36, but the Marauders were still in control. Oak Ridge picked up its defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, but still couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end of the court, particularly at the free throw line where they made only 3-of-10 shots in a 3:30 stretch that still saw them trailing 55-45 with 2:25 to play. That’s when Tyler Simms helped the team break out of their scoring slump. Simms scored eight points in 42 seconds with a field goal and a pair of three-pointers that cut the lead to 58-53 with 1:18 to play. Matt Howard then made a steal and set up D.J. Leszczynski for a layup that made it a three-point game, 58-55 with 1:06 to play. Bryce Scott’s basket cut the lead to one and then he stole the ball and assisted Simms on a layup that gave Oak Ridge its first lead since 1-0 at 59-58 with 38 seconds to play. Jesuit’s Akachi Okugo completed a three-point play to give the Marauders a two-point lead with 8.2 seconds to play. Scott was then followed and calmly made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 61 and the game went into overtime. Oak Ridge dominated the four-minute overtime period, outscoring Jesuit 21-5 to win the game, 82-66. “It’s an instant classic,” Christensen said of the thrilling win. “It’s very big to start off league with a win,” Leszczynski said. “We couldn’t hit any shots in the beginning, but JT (Tulabut) and Matt (Howard) got us going and then Tyler (Simms) hit some big shots and Bryce stepped up.” It took Simms three-plus quarters to get going, but he came alive in the fourth. “I’m a shooter and my coaches and my dad always tell me that shooters have to keep shooting. I wasn’t shooting well early but I was able to hit some big threes late and the only thing that felt better than those was winning the game.” “Our defense helped us a lot,” Findlay added. “Tyler’s threes got the crowd going and got us going.” Scott led the way with 21 points, while Simms finished with 17 and Leszczynski had 15. Findlay scored eight points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.