Lady Trojans survive, 65-63, play for Nor-Cal title next Saturday at Arco

By: Matt Long
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As Oak Ridge coach Steve White drifted in-and-out of a Saturday afternoon daze, he had a premonition about the Nor-Cal semi-final game to be played a few hours later. He pictured Sara James hitting the game winning shot. Oh, White can only hope he has a similar premonition a week from now, as James did indeed hit the game-winning shot Saturday night to lift Oak Ridge to a 65-63 victory over Deer Valley. The Lady Trojans now advance to the Nor-Cal finals against top-seeded Berkeley at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Arco Arena. With the game tied at 63 with 10 seconds remaining, James was fouled by Deer Valley’s Raven Fox and went to the foul line for two foul shots. Uncharacteristically, James missed both and the Wolverines’ Nyaa Davis grabbed the rebound. “I was bumming after I missed the first one but Caitlin saved my butt after the second,” James said. What teammate Caitlin Welsch did was give the Lady Trojans a second chance. Welsch grabbed for the ball in Davis’ hands and the referee called for a jump ball and the possession arrow pointed in Oak Ridge’s direction. After an Oak Ridge timeout, which White drew up a play for James, Carly Bettencourt fed the ball to James in the paint and James turned a flipped up a shot from under the basket that banked in off the backboard to put the Lady Trojans up 65-63 with 4.2 seconds remaining. “The play worked exactly as it was supposed to,” James said. “Dakota set the screen and either I or Dakota were supposed to get the ball and I got it and made the shot.” As the girls were walking out on to the court before the play, White leaned over the Mike James, Sara’s dad, for a few words. “I told him I envisioned Sara hitting the game winning shot and he said, ‘I hope it’s true,’ White said. It was true, but Deer Valley had one last chance. Fox dribbled the ball up the court and took a running shot from the left side about 10 feet out, but the ball bounced off the back iron and Oak Ridge had won the game. The Lady Trojans led by 13 points early in the third quarter, but blew the lead, as the Wolverines went on a 14-0 run to take a 42-41 lead with 3:59 to play in the quarter. Obviously, any momentum Oak Ridge had had with a 37-26 halftime lead was gone. But the Lady Trojans showed their grit and resiliency, outscoring the Wolverines over the last half of the quarter 13-7 with no bigger points than Dakota McLarnan’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to not only put Oak Ridge up by five, but to give her team and the home-town crowd a big kick in the butt. “At first I cut toward the ball, but then I backed off and Carly made a beautiful pass and luckily the shot was good,” McLarnan said. Oak Ridge not only overcame the Deer Valley comeback, but also battled through foul trouble as Bettencourt sat most of the game in foul trouble, while James picked up her fourth in the final minute of the third quarter. On top of that Megan Griswold did not return after spraining her ankle late in the first half. “It was really hard sitting on the bench, but other players stepped up and without them we wouldn’t be where we are in the first place,” Bettencourt said. James finished the game with 28 points, while McLarnan added 13. Welsch scored eight points and Natalie Stone and Griswold chipped in six apiece.