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Lady Trojans shake off first half, dominate second to beat Lodi

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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Oak Ridge began their defense of the CIF Division I state championship in style on Tuesday night. The No. 3-seeded Lady Trojans were at home against the San Joaquin AA runners up, Lodi (15-14, 6-5 SJAA). After beginning the game with a 12-0 lead and a 14-6 cushion after the first quarter, Oak Ridge’s intensity dropped a couple notches in the second. Lodi started the second quarter with a 9-2 run that brought them within one point of the Lady Trojans grasp. Lodi point guard Alyssa Magana tied things up at 17 with a jumper before the Lady Flames took their first lead of the game on a Jill Burkhart bucket, 19-17. On the next Lodi possession, Haley Padua-Dean snatched a pass and led her own fast break for a layup that knotted the game back at 19 with 37 seconds left in the half. Oak Ridge would tack on a free throw to head into the locker room with a slim one-point advantage. The memory of a sketchy first half was quickly erased as Oak Ridge coach Steve White challenged his team to step up its intensity in the second half. The Lady Trojans responded with the same kind of fire that sparked their early first quarter run and went on to outscore Lodi 40-15 in the final two quarters en route to a 60-34 victory to advance to round two. “It was ugly in the first half but the second half was definitely better. I thought we had some kids that stepped up that normally don’t get those opportunities. I think they’re starting to get that sense of urgency of being in the playoffs,” said White. Oak Ridge got contributions from a number of players in the second half, including junior Katie Hoisington, who led the way defensively for the Lady Trojans with four steals and a pair of blocked shots. “In the second half, I think it was all about intensity on the boards and getting after it with uptight defense. That’s what turned it around for us,” said Hoisington, who also chipped in eight points and five rebounds. “Mentally, it just hit us that we can’t do this individually and if we run our offense, work together and feed off of each other’s energy, then we’d be fine.” The second half was highlighted by a pair of freshmen that White called up from the JV team for the postseason. In the third, Jenn Hoffman grabbed a big offensive rebound and found Haley Anderson under the basket for a layup that brought the Oak Ridge bench to its feet. In the fourth, Ali Bettencourt—freshman sister of four-year varsity starter Carly Bettencourt, who led Oak Ridge with 10 points—ignited a 15-0 Oak Ridge run with back-to-back 3-pointers before stealing two passes that also led to points for the Lady Trojans. “People always wonder how you can put freshmen into a game like this, but they’ve been practicing all year long. They played a lot of minutes at the JV level so they were ready for this competition,” White said of his two freshman call-ups. “The speed of the game is a little quicker, so defensively, we’ll have to do a better job of adjusting but offensively, they can definitely handle themselves.” Trojan point guard Natalie Stone went down midway through the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return to the game. White said that she was taken in for X-rays and will determine whether she will be able to play against Pleasant Grove on Thursday at Oak Ridge.