Oak Ridge boys hold on to beat West in playoff opener

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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After a devastating loss to arch rival Ponderosa on Friday’s season finale on senior night, the Oak Ridge boys’ basketball team held a team meeting Sunday night once the playoff seeds were unveiled. When the Trojans learned that they had earned a berth as the No.13 seed in the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division I bracket, coach Steve Scott reminded his team that a little humility could be a good thing. “(Losing to Ponderosa) was hard for all of us,” said Scott. “We didn’t want that to be the last basketball memory for our seniors. It was a reminder of how difficult to it is to win and in some ways it was good for us.” The reminder served the Trojans well in the playoff opener on the road at West High in Tracy as they earned a hard-fought 60-54 victory against the Wolfpack on Wednesday night. Scott said that the Trojans started off a little nervous in the first quarter, but quickly shook off the butterflies with tough defense in the second as they turned a five-point deficit into a seven-point halftime lead. Matt Howard came up with a couple steals for easy buckets and sophomore Connor Sende added five quick points with a put-back and a 3-pointer to give the Trojans momentum. “That little stretch in the second quarter was unbelievable,” said Scott. “It was a huge confidence builder for us.” West’s high-flying athleticism and determined penetration brought the Wolfpack back into the game in the third quarter, making it a three-point game before the final period. Scott knew that a repeat of the team’s poor crunch-time free throw shooting against Ponderosa could not happen if they wanted to win in the playoffs. Senior leader Bryce Scott, who led the team with 25 points, six assists and eight rebounds, calmly sank five clutch free throws toward the game’s end to ice the victory for the Trojans, advancing them into the second round. “I was really pleased with the way we held on for a playoff road win. We haven’t had one of those for a while,” said Coach Scott. Scott Sanchez also chipped in for 14 points and seven boards for the Trojans (15-12), who will now head to Vallejo on Friday to attempt to knock off the Solano County League champion Bethel High Jaguars (22-6, 9-1), who defeated Granite Bay in their respective postseason opener. Coach Scott said that Bethel is similar to West in its athletic ability and that the Trojans will have to stick to their typical slow-down offense and high-intensity defensive game plan that has worked for them against comparable teams in the Delta River League this season.