Lady Trojans fall to Lincoln, 58-45

By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge will not get the opportunity to play for a second straight section championship. The defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions were ousted from the section playoffs Wednesday following a 58-45 loss to Lincoln of Stockton. Lincoln, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, played well early, opening up a 14-6 lead over Oak Ridge, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, and the Lady Trojans never got closer than three points the rest of the game. Coming into the game, rebounding was an area of concern for Oak Ridge coach Steve White. The Lady Trojans have had trouble rebounding at times during the season and it was a problem again tonight and it showed early. Lincoln’s first points, a three-pointer by Alysa Valentine, came after the team grabbed two offensive rebounds. Two minutes later after Dana Gayagoy missed a pair of free throws; Nyre Harris pulled down the rebound, made the basket and was fouled by Carly Bettencourt and knocked down the free throw to give Lincoln a 10-4 lead. It’s at that moment that White called upon Stefanie Walberg, a veteran of battles in the paint from a year ago during Oak Ridge’s run to a state championship. Walberg’s been hurt most of the season and has seen limited playing time, but stepped up and played well inside. She helped to even out the rebounding battle, held her own defensively and even contributed eight points on a night when points were hard to come by for the Lady Trojans. “Stefanie has not played much lately because of injury and is not feeling well on top of that and to her credit, she came in and played well,” White said. “She’s a tough kid and I’m really proud of her.” Walberg’s play was to be commended, but she couldn’t do it all. A three-pointer by Jenna Klein, her only points of the game, cut the Lincoln lead to three, 14-11 with 6:38 to play in the half, but Lincoln outscored Oak Ridge 11-4 to take a 25-15 lead into halftime. After scoring only six points in the first quarter and nine in the second, Oak Ridge warmed up offensively in the third with 17. They got hot from the perimeter, as Haley Anderson knocked down a three and Dakota McLarnan followed with a pair from beyond the arc to cut the lead to five, 33-28, with 3:05 to play. Lincoln’s leading scorer Devyn Weymouth, who Oak Ridge held to six points in the first half, caught fire in the second with seven points in the third, including a pair of three-pointers. She answered McLarnan’s second three with one of her own and Lincoln maintained an eight-point lead after three quarters, 40-32. Oak Ridge hung tough, trailing by six, 49-43, with 2:52 to play in the game, but Lincoln scored nine straight points before a basket by Walberg ended the run. By then the game’s outcome was decided, as Lincoln led by 13 with 49 seconds to play. White felt his team didn’t play with the energy they needed. “Lincoln was a team that played hungry and looked like they wanted it,” White said. “Rebounding is a lot about effort and they had seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter to our 10 total. That’s seven extra shots that they got.” Harris led Lincoln with 22 points, while Weymouth scored 19. Bettencourt led the Lady Trojans with 10 points, while Anderson scored nine and Walberg chipped in eight. Despite the loss, Oak Ridge will begin the Nor-Cal playoffs on the road on Tuesday.