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Lady Trojans playing in Nike TOC Tournament in Phoenix

By: Matt Long
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By opening the season by winning three straight tournaments, Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team has made themselves a tough act to follow. This week Oak Ridge (10-0) is in Phoenix playing in the Nike TOC Tournament, a tournament that will likely be the toughest the team’s played in this season. “It should feature great competition with teams that play a lot of different styles,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “We’re the only team from California in our bracket and we open up with a team from Tennessee so it should be a lot of fun and a good challenge for us.” Oak Ridge entered the holidays by winning the Trojan Toss-Up for the fifth straight year, beating Reno in the championship game Dec. 23, 48-41. Sara James scored 27 points in the win over Reno and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Her final four points came on free throws in the game’s final 13 seconds which secured the win. James had her fingerprints all over the game. With Oak Ridge trailing 25-23 in the third quarter, James gave her team the lead for good with a 3-pointer with three minutes to play in the quarter. She followed it up with a driving layup and after a Carly Bettencourt jumper, James posted up and scored another basket, capping off a 9-0 run that put Oak Ridge up 32-25 with 32 seconds to play in the quarter. In the fourth quarter, James scored her team’s first four points of the quarter before Natalie Stone hit a big 3-pointer to put the team up by six. Caitlin Welsch’s basket put Oak Ridge up 41-34 and Bettencourt later answered Reno’s 3-pointer with one of her own that kept Oak Ridge in front enough for James to close out the game with her free throws. “Reno was a good team for us to play,” White said. “We played them in an AAU tourney and they jumped all over us so we knew they were good. “In the first half, we got a lot of good looks but our shots just weren’t falling. Defensively, we were great except for a couple of breakdowns in the first half. We slowed a high-octane team down.” The win over Reno followed up wins over Monterey Trail (87-27) and Bella Vista (61-42). Stone and Welsch, who both scored seven points against Reno, made the all-tournament team for their performances.