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It's no contest: Trojans win Shoot-Out

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Oak Ridge breezed through its own Shoot-Out Tournament last week, winning all three games by double digits on the way to improving to 6-1 on the young season.

The Lady Trojans were bolstered by the return of Haley Anderson and Michelle Barkley, who not only added a lot of skill to the lineup, but also depth and leadership which helped the team as well.

Oak Ridge’s most impressive performance came Saturday in the championship game when they ripped Delta River League rival Pleasant Grove, 75-31. Oak Ridge led 16-2 after the first quarter and dominated from then on, extending its lead to 23 points by halftime, 36-13.

“We beat a very good Pleasant Grove team,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “We played unselfishly; making the extra pass. We played with good energy and effort and rebounded well. It was our most complete game of the year. The nice thing is the girls understand there is room to improve and play even better.”

Ali Bettencourt led the way with 14 points. Anderson scored 12 points and Nikki Dow added 10. Shelby Peters finished with nine points, while Grace Derksen and Gabby Flores scored eight.

With the return of Anderson and Barkley, Oak Ridge now has 10 healthy players and that new-found depth made a big difference this weekend.

“They were rusty but they gave us some much-needed depth,” White said. “We were like a hockey team; having everyone rotating in and playing hard and that was fun for the players and fun for the coaches. Everyone was productive and all have a niche to fill.”

The Lady Trojans reached the championship game following a 63-24 win over El Camino Friday. After an even first quarter, Oak Ridge outscored the Eagles 22-5 in the second quarter and that trend continued in the second half when they held a 29-7 scoring advantage.

Oak Ridge opened the tournament Thursday with a 54-16 win over Winters. It was the first game of the season for Anderson and Barkley and while they were far from mid-season form, it was great to have them back. Both played somewhat sparingly, Anderson seeing the floor slightly more than Barkley, but it was a step in the right direction for both girls; Anderson is recovering from a knee sprain, while Barkley is working her way back from knee surgery. White said he didn’t see enough of either player to really comment on their progress.

“Michelle could only play one to two minutes at a time and she looked rusty,” White said. “Both she and Haley are heady players, though, and we’ll see how they are tomorrow.”

Regardless of how much they played or how well they played, the fact that Oak Ridge had a ninth and tenth player to provide depth was a plus. The hope is they’ll continue to improve and be 100 percent healthy by January.

Dow said it’s been challenging at times early in the season because of all the team’s injuries. On top of Anderson and Barkley, Celeste Vitolas, Lauren Liebert and Yumi Drossos are also injured and have yet to play.

“It’s been difficult because sometimes we only had six girls who could practice,” Dow said. “We had some girls gain some confidence with some more playing time so that was good, and now we’ve got some people coming back.”

After a sluggish first quarter where Oak Ridge held a slim 11-9 lead, the Lady Trojans dominated the rest of the way, outscoring Winters 43-7 by winning the final three quarters 12-3, 15-2 and 16-2, respectively. Baylee Opperman scored all 16 of her team’s points in the loss.

“Games like this are frustrating because the level of play drops off and then we get lackadaisical, which leads to mental mistakes that I feel we should never make in the first place,” White said. “Our intensity was better in the second half and it was nice to see that we picked it up.”

Dow agreed the team did some good things in the second half.

“I thought we passed the ball well and did a good job communicating,” Dow said. “We had fun even though it was difficult at times.”

Peters led the Lady Trojans with 13 points, while Dow scored 11 and Derksen finished with eight.

Peters, Dow and Bettencourt were named to the all-tournament team, while the MVP of the tournament was given to the entire team.

“We did that as a reminder to show what it means to play as a team,” White said. “The last two games of the tournament, everyone who played, scored. We’ve got 10 players right now and if they all scored six points, that’s 60 points and if we score that much we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Vitolas, Drossos and Liebert are still injured. White said isn’t sure when either player will return, but hopes that Vitolas and Drossos can return by the start of league play.

Oak Ridge hosts another tournament this week, the Toss-Up, opening with Will C. Wood at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. River City and Inderkum play in the opposite game at 3:30 p.m., with the winners playing at 6:30 p.m. Friday and the losers playing at 5 p.m.