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Oak Ridge falls to Kennedy, 65-42

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The dream of winning a section title is over for Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team.

The Lady Trojans chances to win a title were dashed by Kennedy for the second straight season, as the Cougars defeated Oak Ridge 65-42 Thursday night at the University of Pacific in Stockton. The Cougars advance to play top-seeded St. Mary’s Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game. Kennedy will attempt to win consecutive titles, having beaten Oak Ridge last season in double overtime.

“It’s definitely hard to swallow,” Oak Ridge senior Haley Anderson said. “We know, though, that we can still get to Sleep Train and meet them again in Nor-Cals so now that’s our goal.”

Despite the loss, Oak Ridge still qualifies for the Nor-Cal playoffs, which begin Tuesday.

On this night, just like last season, Kennedy featured the best player on either team in Lynette Johnson and Johnson led her team to victory, totally 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Johnson did so in economic fashion, making 10-of-16 shot attempts, including two-of-three from three-point range. Simply put, Oak Ridge couldn’t stop her.

“No matter what we tried to do to stop her, we couldn’t,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “She was at another level tonight.”

While Johnson had an exceptional game, her 26 points probably came as no surprise to White, as a player of her caliber is going to “get hers.” What White wasn’t counting on was the play of 6’2” center Dalayna Tyler-Scott, who torched the Lady Trojans for 16 points on seven-of-11 shooting, 11 points coming in the first half when Kennedy showcased their dominance in the paint. Oak Ridge had no answer.

“They killed us inside,” White said. “We had no inside presence to deal with her.”

Anderson added, “Defensively, we were focusing on their guards because we knew they were capable of hitting the three, but we lost sight of the fact that they can beat us inside and you can’t let that happen.”

Oak Ridge wasn’t its normal effective self on defense and making matters worse, the Cougars didn’t miss many shots. Kennedy shot 58 percent from the field to Oak Ridge’s 34. In the first half, Kennedy missed only eight of 24 shots, while the Lady Trojans only made eight of 20.

“Credit Kennedy for good defense and a good plan,” White said. “We had open shots and had to knock them down and didn’t. They took a lot of tough shots and made them and we weren’t fortunate enough to even make our easy ones.”

Oak Ridge fell behind 6-0, but fought back to tie the game at 18 on a basket by Jenna Ford with 6:25 to play in the second quarter. From that point, however, Kennedy outscored Oak Ridge 16-2 the rest of the half, as Oak Ridge went 4:30 without a field goal before Grace Derksen made a layup with 1:57 to play in the half.

Trailing 34-20 at halftime, Oak Ridge was still in the game, but another offensive dry spell in the third quarter sealed its fate.

Jenn Hoffman scored to make 36-22 just 55 seconds into the third quarter, but Oak Ridge’s next basket didn’t come until Michelle Barkley converted an offensive rebound with 2:24 to play in the quarter. During that 4:31 stretch, Kennedy outscored the Lady Trojans 8-1, turning a 14-point lead into a 21-point lead. Oak Ridge didn’t challenge the rest of the way.

Hoffman led Oak Ridge with 10 points, while Anderson and Bettencourt finished with five.