Oak Ridge advances to D-I final with win over Franklin

Faces Kennedy in championship game Saturday at Arco
By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team will play for the Division I championship at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Arco Arena. The Lady Trojans, the top seeded team, survived a scare from fourth-seeded Franklin, coming away with a 42-38 victory. It wasn’t a pretty win by any stretch, but the Lady Trojans pulled it out. Oak Ridge was hampered by mistakes for most of the game, picking up at least half a dozen traveling calls, a couple double dribbles and all total committed upwards of 25 turnovers. When the game was on the line, though, the team came through with some solid ball in the final four minutes to pull it out. “Everything was rushed tonight and I don’t know why,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “We’re too experienced a team to be doing those things but we did them and the refs called it. Everything was rushed tonight and there was no patience. I think we ran three good plays and that was it. We just have to slow it down and take our time.” With Oak Ridge leading 34-32, the Lady Trojans scored six straight points in 90 seconds to secure the victory. Caitlin Welsch hit a basket in transition and followed it with a 12-footer, which crawled in over the front of the rim, coming after Franklin missed a layup at the other end. Carly Bettencourt then stole the inbounds pass and turned it into a layup and Oak Ridge led 40-32 with 2:24 to play. Franklin never got closer than four points the rest of the way. Sara James and Welsch led the way, particularly in the second half. James finished with 24 points, 14 coming in the second half. She hit two free throws, a field goal and a 3-pointer in both the third and fourth quarters. Welsch scored all eight of her points in the second half, six coming in the fourth quarter. Bettencourt’s only points came on one of the biggest baskets of the game late in the fourth quarter, while Kelsi Danciart’s only points came on a shot at the buzzer to end the third quarter, which gave the team the lead heading into the final eight minutes. Oak Ridge by only one at halftime, 16-15, but scored the first seven points of the third quarter to take a 23-15 lead, tied for the biggest lead of the game. James hit two free throws followed by a basket by Welsch and a 3-pointer by James. However, the Wildcats scored the next 11 points to take a 26-23 lead, shocking the Lady Trojans. “It was a game of runs,” White said. “We just had some longer runs than they had.” Oak Ridge recovered enough to retake the lead by the end of the quarter on baskets by James and Danciart to go up 27-26 with one quarter to play. “It seems like every year that we go deep in the playoffs we have that one game that we have to grind it out and this was just one of those games,” White said. “It’s time for the seniors to step up and lead the way.” Oak Ridge will need a good effort on Saturday against Kennedy, the tournament’s third seed that blew out McClatchy in the other semi-final. “They lit it up,” White said. “They’re going to be hard to defend. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”