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Oak Ridge defeats Ponderosa for perfect 10-0 league record

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Having wrapped up the Delta River League title last week, the Lady Trojans’ aim this week was to complete a perfect 10-0 league record with a win Tuesday against Ponderosa.

Oak Ridge (10-0 in league, 23-3 overall) accomplished their goal Tuesday on Senior Night, winning 68-31. Prior to the game, the Lady Trojans honored their four seniors -- Lauren Liebert, Nikki Dow, Haley Anderson and Jenna Ford -- who were playing in their final regular season home game of their careers.

Celeste Vitolas led the way with 14 points, while Shelby Peters scored 12.

Oak Ridge entered the week coming off two wins over Sheldon and St. Francis. The team struggled with Sheldon for three quarters of Friday’s game, before taking control of the game in the fourth quarter. Oak Ridge trailed 22-18 at halftime and 30-29 after three quarters before outscoring the Huskies 19-8 in the fourth quarter.

“Sheldon played good defense and we struggled with our shooting in the first half,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “We also missed all five of free throws in the first half, which didn’t help.”

White said several players stepped up in the second half to keep the team’s perfect league record in tact.

“Haley played possessed and Jenn (Hoffman) also had a good second half,” White said. “Grace (Derksen) played intelligently and Yumi (Drossos) had a good game defensively, made some good passes and also made a few shots.”

The Oak Ridge girls wrapped up the league championship with a 50-38 win over St. Francis on Feb. 5.  Anderson and Ali Bettencourt combined for 35 of Oak Ridge ’s 50 points, helping the Lady Trojans secure its first league title since joining the Delta River League in 2010.

“We got a little unfinished business checked off with the league championship, but we still have more in the playoffs,” said Anderson .

Oak Ridge trailed at halftime, 23-17, after a second quarter that saw five lead changes midway through the period. The Lady Trojans rebounded in the second half, outscoring St. Francis 17-4 in the third quarter behind some help from their bench.

Backup post Michelle Barkley was key late in the third quarter. She blocked a St. Francis shot, which led to Yumi Drossos draining a game-tying 3-pointer at the 2:45 mark. After Anderson ’s spinning drive in the lane put Oak Ridge ahead, Barkley collected an offensive rebound and a lay-in to extend the Trojan lead. Barkley’s defensive rebound and outlet pass to Bettencourt — whose 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim three times before falling true — completed a 10-0 run for Oak Ridge at the close of the third quarter.

“Michelle came in and gave us some really good minutes inside with rebounding,” said White. “She’s been that physical presence; one of those power post players rather than the finesse post players. She’s been working hard at coming back from her injuries and we’re glad to have her back.”

A physical fourth quarter showed that Oak Ridge could be calm under pressure. Twelve of the Lady Trojans’ 16 fourth quarter points were converted from the free throw stripe, as they closed out the 12-point victory.

“We didn’t do so well in the first half, but we came out a little more loose in the second half,” said Anderson . “We knew it was getting a little chippy so we wanted to be more of the aggressors and try to drive to the basket since our shots weren’t falling.”

Anderson ’s 20 points led Oak Ridge , while Bettencourt added 15 and six rebounds. Barkley added seven and six, respectively, off the bench. Najah Queenland led the Troubadours with 15 points and eight rebounds.

The Lady Trojans have had a superb season so far and hope for continued success in the playoffs. The formula to the team’s success has been established through 26 games and shouldn’t be changed now.

“The kids have done a great job playing unselfish basketball,” White said. “It’s not about who’s scoring as long as we’re scoring. Different people are stepping up every night. Haley and Ali usually lead us, but sometimes it has been Jenn and everyone else takes turns. They each have their own niche and they fill it well.

“In the playoffs, it’s critical that we shoot well and continue to improve our rebounding,” White continued. “The further you advance the more it becomes a half-court game so we really have to be patient on offense and not panic.”