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Oak Ridge eager for challenge of playoffs

By: Matt Long
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Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team has had a difficult season when compared to past seasons. The team suffered nine losses, an uncharacteristically high number, but still managed the No. 3 seed in the Division I playoffs. The Lady Trojans entered the playoffs Tuesday as they played host to Lodi. One thing the Lady Trojans have going for them is playoff experience. Having won the state championship a year ago with three key players returning from that team including Carly Bettencourt, Natalie Stone and Dakota McLarnan, Oak Ridge has solid experience to rely on. “The girls know what they have to do to have success in the playoffs,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “They have to play consistently for four quarters. They can’t take a quarter or a half off. Now it’s just a matter of going out a executing. We’ve been up against some good teams and have not come out with the energy we’ve needed to beat them and that’s what’s been surprising.” It’s been an up-and-down year, but the Lady Trojans are ready to go. “After that first loss to St. Francis, that’s not how we wanted to start off and we’re just glad we made it,” Oak Ridge senior Carly Bettencourt said. “We’re glad we made it to the playoffs and we’re excited to see how far we can go.” If the Lady Trojans beat Lodi last night, they will play host to Pleasant Grove or Davis on Thursday. If Pleasant Grove upsets Davis, it would set up the fourth meeting between the Eagles and Lady Trojans this season. It’s a game that worries White. “If it happens it’s a scary game,” White said. “All three times we’ve played them they’ve been competitive, close games. No matter what team we play, if we can get by the second round we qualify for NorCals.” While White is leary of the possibility of playing Pleasant Grove for a fourth time, he knows if his team is to achieve the goal of a section title, they’ve got to win four games no matter who they play. The Lady Trojans have twice lost by 10 points to top-seeded St. Francis and Lincoln of Stockton is another strong team seeded second. “St. Francis and Lincoln-of-Stockton are very good teams and if we made it that far and had to play them in a best-of-seven series, it would be very difficult to beat them,” White said. “But in a one-game scenario, anything can happen. For the Lady Trojans to be successful in the playoffs, Bettencourt added, “Our defense has to be on point and we have to play together on offense. I think we’ll be hard to shut down because we have so many scorers.”