Lady Trojans advance to semis; face Lincoln tonight at UOP

By: Matt Long
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Win or lose in today’s game against Lincoln-of-Stockton, Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team is still in the Northern California playoffs, which begin March 9. A win for the No. 3 seed Lady Trojans over the No. 2 seeded Lincoln at the University of Pacific, however, and Oak Ridge will have a shot at defending its Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title on Saturday against the St. Francis-Armijo winner. A shot at St. Francis, a team that beat Oak Ridge twice during the Delta River League season, would give the team a chance to avenge those losses on a big stage. Lincoln, however, will be a formidable opponent. They’ve posted a 24-3 record this season against Oak Ridge’s 20-9 mark. “They’re very good with pretty good size and team speed,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “They’ve got a good shooter, a player who’s relentless on the boards and basically all the pieces of a good team. We’re going to have to find a way to control the tempo, keep their guards from getting to the basket and, as always with us, will have to rebound the basketball.” Oak Ridge senior guard Carly Bettencourt said defense will be the key. “We’re going to have to play good defensively,” Bettencourt said. “We’ve had some bad losses this season, but they haven’t affected us in a negative way. We’re confident that we can win, but certainly not over-confident. Lincoln is a good team.” Oak Ridge is coming off one of its best games of the season, a 58-51 win over Pleasant Grove on Thursday in the second round of the playoffs, the fourth time they’ve beaten the Eagles this year. An 8-0 run over two minutes to start the fourth quarter provided Oak Ridge a cushion and a big bucket late in the game secured the victory. Oak Ridge expected a dogfight and got one as the teams battled back-and-forth through the first three quarters. Leading 44-43 with eight minutes to play, Oak Ridge scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to take a 52-43 lead with six minutes to play. It was the most important stretch of the game. Kaitlyn Lendrum scored the first five points of the quarter, converting a three-point play to start and then, following a Dakota McLarnan steal and assist, dropping a 10-foot jump shot to give the Lady Trojans a 49-43 lead. Haley Anderson followed by draining a three-pointer that extended the lead to nine. “It was almost a replay of the game we played at their place, except that our run was at the start of the fourth quarter instead of the third quarter,” White said. “We had some kids hit some big shots that maybe you don’t expect them to make. Some kids surprised me. Haley hasn’t taken a three-pointer in a long time and she buried it. I liked the fearlessness that they showed.” The Eagles cut the lead to four with two minutes to play. Fifty-one seconds later with the shot clock expiring, Jenna Klein stepped up and dropped a 16-footer in the cylinder to secure the win. Bettencourt led Oak Ridge with 13 points, while Lendrum scored 11 and Anderson finished with 10.