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High expectations

Oak Ridge wins, but coach says team must improve its play
By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team is off to an 8-2 start but to coach Steve White it doesn’t feel like it. White, ever the perfectionist, sees things to work on as he watches every game. The team won their own Toss-Up Tournament last week, defeating Christian Brothers in the finale on Thursday, 64-58, but White was far from pleased with the team’s performance. After leading 25-9 after the first quarter, the Lady Trojans were outscored 49-39 the rest of the game. In the two previous games of the tournament, Oak Ridge narrowly defeated El Camino, 60-54 and cruised by Vista del Lago, 68-39 in the tournament opener. Even in a 29-point victory, White said in some ways the game felt like a loss. There is a method to White’s demanding nature, however. The Lady Trojans are defending CIF Division I state champions and he’s simply trying to prepare his team for the difficult schedule that awaits the team in the Delta River League, and beyond. “I feel like a broken record because I keep saying the same things, but we’ve got to find a way to play four quarters,” White said. “Thank goodness we got off to a good start tonight. Christian Brothers is a good team and I give them a lot of credit because they played hard and didn’t quit. I guess the good thing for us is that we held them off, but we’ve got to recognize the flow of the game and what’s working and what’s not. Offensively, we were one shot and done and defensively, we were reacting instead of anticipating.” Oak Ridge scored the first seven points of the game, worked up a 14-7 lead and then finished the quarter on an 11-0 run to assert their dominance early. Dakota McLarnan scored 10 of her 14 points in the opening eight minutes, while Haley Anderson added eight. Lauren Sende scored four points but was making a bigger difference on the defensive end of the court with blocked shots and preventing shots being taken, as Falcon shooters often turned the other way and passed the ball when Sende stepped in front of them. The Lady Trojans, however, never enjoyed the same success the rest of the game, as the Falcons played them all but evenly in the second quarter and outscored them in both quarters in the second half. Oak Ridge became impatient offensively, firing up quick shots, and defensively had trouble stopping penetration. Beyond that, the Falcons seemed to be getting to all the loose balls and in fact played like the team that was leading instead of trailing. The Falcons cut Oak Ridge’s lead to eight at 56-48 with 2:35 to play, but Carly Bettencourt had a steal and assist to Anderson and Natalie Stone made a steal and Bettencourt followed with two free throws that kept the team in front. Anderson and McLarnan finished with 14 points, while Kaitlyn Lendrum scored 11. Stone ended up with eight, while Sende chipped in seven. The game against El Camino was somewhat similar in that the Lady Trojans again got off to a good start, leading 25-14 after the first quarter, but their play dropped off considerably after that and were again outscored the remainder of the game, 40-35. Anderson led the team with15 points, followed by 12 points from McLarnan and Stone and 11 from Bettencourt. Despite dealing with chronic foul trouble most of the game against Vista del Lago, the team played well enough to defeat the Eagles handily, 68-39. “In some ways it feels like a loss,” White said. “We did not move our feet well on defense and when you don’t do that this (foul trouble) is what happens. We weren’t able to adjust to how the game was being called by the officials. As we progress through the season, having good basketball IQ is part of the equation and we have to learn that.” Nevertheless, the Lady Trojans had no trouble with the Eagles, jumping out to a 10-0 lead two minutes into the game and never looking back. McLarnan led the team with 18 points, 12 coming off three-pointers and 10 of the 18 points coming in the first quarter. Jenna Klein added 11, while Anderson scored nine, as did Lendrum, with seven coming from the free throw line. Bettencourt added seven points, while Hayley Padua-Dean and Sende both scored six. McLarnan was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while Lendrum and Anderson made the all-tournament team. The team plays in the Nike Tournament in Phoenix this week with the tournament finishing up on Thursday.