Lady Trojans come together for strong season

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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The 2011-2012 Oak Ridge Lady Trojans didn’t start the year, nor finish it, as one of the favorites to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship. But the team came within one game of doing so with the combination of talented, hard-working players and good coaching. Though they only had four losses prior to league play, the Lady Trojans struggled at times early in the season, but they eventually pulled it together and succeeded. “They’ve gotten the most of out themselves and have made the most of their opportunities,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “They’ve come together as a group and peaked at the right time.” Oak Ridge opens the Northern California Tournament at 7 p.m. tonight at home against Washington. If they win, they will have another home game on Saturday against either Oakland Tech or Heritage. Rebounding has been a point contention with the team from the start of the season. However, they’ve rebounded well lately, which has helped the team to finish the season strongly. Also, the development of a third scoring threat has also been key to the team’s success and Oak Ridge has found that person of late as well. While Lauren Sende anchors in the inside and Jenna Klein provides perimeter scoring and also drives the lane, sophomore point guard Jenn Hoffman has helped fill the void left when senior Kaitlyn Lendrum went down for the season with a foot injury. She played her best game Saturday against Kennedy, making two of three free throws with five seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. “We practice free throws all the time so I just had to stay confident,” Hoffman said. “It felt good to make them.” Hoffman’s first attempt rattled in and out, but she made the next two to tie the game. In the first overtime, the ball ended up in Hoffman’s hands with time running out and she drained a 10-foot baseline jumper to give her team a brief two-point lead. It’s the type of shot most sophomores are afraid to take, but Hoffman wasn’t. “I saw the ball coming toward me and I knew I had to shoot it,” Hoffman said. “When Ali (Bettencourt) and Kaitlyn went down, two guards projected to be in our top seven or eight players, we became a different team,” White said. “Jenn had struggled with her shot and her consistency the last two to three weeks, but she’s a tough kid and to perform like she did (Saturday) is impressive. I put pressure on her, but she’s a clutch player who’s made a lot of clutch shots over the years as I’ve coached her since she was 5. “She’s got an incredibly quick release and she’s improved her ball handling,” White continued. “We’re going to work on her being able to go to her right (in the offseason) and when she gets that down she’s going to be tough to stop.” Hoffman’s play also impressed Klein. “Oh, gosh, that girl has those games when she’s got her stroke,” Klein said. “She was definitely a key for us tonight.” Since Lendrum went down, Haley Anderson has also helped bring the ball up the court as a point forward and may be the team’s most well-rounded player. Senior Katie Hoisington has played major minutes, doing a little bit of everything like Anderson, while Jacki Bateman, Michelle Barkley and Nikki Dow have become strong players off the bench, often playing key minutes and making critical contributions.