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Oak Ridge advances to Nor-Cal semis with win over Heritage

Will travel to Berkeley on Tuesday
By: Matt Long/Telegraph Sports Editor
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Just win baby. That’s what Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team has been doing in the Northern California playoffs. Oak Ridge advanced to the Nor-Cal semifinals with a 44-29 win over Heritage on Saturday night. On Tuesday they will either travel to Berkeley to face the top-seeded Yellowjackets. “Our style right now is to win ugly,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said after the win. “This team has been resilient. We’ve had our peaks and valleys this year, but they’ve come together and played as a team and when they do that anything can happen.” Oak Ridge, the fourth seed in the Nor-Cal tournament, clearly was the better team on Saturday night, but still struggled to score, as they had no inside game and were not hitting their perimeter shots. Still, they scored enough to get the win. Heritage had an even tougher time scoring than the Lady Trojans. Aside from center Sabrina Engelstad, who finished with 11 points, no one else scored more than five points. Oak Ridge asserted itself defensively early, as they forced several turnovers. Sophomore guard Jenn Hoffman picked up a couple steals as well as a loose ball in the game’s opening minutes. The Lady Trojans jumped out to a 9-0 lead, as the Patriots didn’t score until 1:49 remained in the first quarter. The teams battled back and forth, as Oak Ridge led the entire game; the Patriots coming as close as four points late in the second quarter, 16-12. Nikki Dow made a steal and layup and Jenna Klein finished the half with a three-pointer, as the Lady Trojans led 21-12 at the break. Oak Ridge played its best ball in the second half, particularly late in the third quarter and early in the fourth where they put the game away. Jacki Bateman, who’s been the team’s “sixth man” most of the season, hit the first of two three-pointers midway through the third quarter to give her team a 29-17 lead. She hit a second in the fourth quarter. “The three is not really my shot, but it was there and Coach White told me to shoot it or drive so I shot it,” Bateman said. “I’m glad I was able to make two of them.” Hoffman’s shot wasn’t falling from the perimeter, but she picked up two big baskets early in the quarter on drives to the hoop, the first resulting in an and-one opportunity and the second a sweet reverse layup. Michelle Barkley and Dow also made big baskets late in the quarter, as Oak Ridge led 32-23 after three quarters. Heritage scored the first basket of the fourth quarter and scored all six of their points in the first four minutes, but Oak Ridge was equal to the task, as Klein knocked down two free throws followed by Bateman’s three. Klein then scored again off an offensive rebound and Haley Anderson and Lauren Sende followed with baskets to seal the win. “We played as a team and were patient on offense,” White said. “We had to make sure we were willing to play offense longer than they were willing to play defense. It helps when you hit clutch shots too and we had a couple with Jacki’s three and Haley’s shot that bounced around and went in.” Bateman added, “We played as a team, moved the ball and stayed composed.” The only downer for the Lady Trojans was an injury to Barkley’s knee, which she suffered in the third quarter. She did not return. “We don’t know what it is other than a knee injury,” White said. “She’s going to go home and ice it. It’s definitely a big loss for us if she can’t play Tuesday.” The Lady Trojans will now prepare for Berkeley, as they’re one of eight teams remaining in the Division I playoffs. That might be surprising to some, but not to Bateman. “We were underdogs, but my class, the seniors, we’ve worked hard since our freshman year, doing whatever we can and pushing ourselves to get to this point,” Bateman said. “We’ve trained hard to get where we’re at.” White knows it will take a supreme effort to pick up another win Tuesday. “They will be the heavy favorites, but we love being the underdog,” White said. “I know that they will respect us, as we beat them two years ago and played them tough last year after the first quarter. We can’t be intimated and will have to rise to the occasion.” Berkeley (24-2) defeated Oak Ridge 75-49 last year and went on to the state championship game, which they lost to Mater Dei.