Before the Oak Ridge girls won a state basketball title, the boy did it

By: Matt Long
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Five years before the Oak Ridge girls’ basketball team won a state championship, the boys’ team made their historic run to history. The boys, much like the girls’ team this year, were underdogs as they made their way through the playoffs. Both teams were given little chance to win the state final as well, as the boys were up against Mater Dei. Like the girls, however, the boys won the state final convincingly, pulling away from Mater Dei in the second half to a 60-44 victory. So what made this team so tough? For starters, they had Ryan Anderson, who at 6-foot, 9-inches tall, led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds a game. A few years later, of course, Anderson would make it into the NBA. Hiram Thompson, an outstanding point guard who went on to play at the University of Hawaii, scored 14 points a game and more importantly, controlled the ball and ran the offense. Ryan Moya, the team’s third-leading scorer averaging 12 points a game, was the heart and soul of the team. He did a lot of the dirty work and battled in the paint, usually against taller opponents, as he was listed at 6’3.” Head coach Steve Scott usually went nine players deep throughout the playoffs. Kevin James started at one guard, while the other starter was 6’7” Jacob Kernodle. Forward Andrew Browning provided offense off the bench, as did guard Mike Leszczynski. Guard Jeff Bayless and forward Andy Cinciarelli also made solid contributions. Rounding out the roster were Kyle McCray, Zach Wallace, Tony Vorster, Billy Nunes, Taylor Paur, Ryan Porter, Robbie Leszczynski, Justin Strade and Michael Lynn. The team finished the year with a 31-4 record, losing four non-league games to Deer Valley, Plantation (FL), Jesuit and Franklin. When asked what he remembered most about the team, Scott said it was actually something Moya said the previous year. “We had just lost to Hayward in the first round of Nor-Cals and we were talking in the locker room and I asked if anyone had anything to say,” Scott said. “I’ll never forget this. Ryan said, ‘The quest for a state championship starts tomorrow.’ “I thought that was profound,” Scott continued. “We had just lost and a good year had just ended, but what Ryan said became our focus.” The Trojans swept the Sierra Valley Conference and marched to a section championship with four double-digit wins over Mira Loma, East Union, Armijo and Golden Valley. The double-digit wins continued in the Nor-Cal playoffs, as Oak Ridge got by Archbishop Mitty. Then came what would be their biggest test of the playoffs, a road game against San Ramon Valley. Oak Ridge pulled out a thrilling 63-62 win. “That was our only close game,” James said. “It was a hard-fought game and they had a small gym and a big crowd. It was one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of. After we won that, we kind of knew we weren’t going to lose.” Moya agreed. “If you asked anyone what they remember most they would all probably say the San Ramon game,” Moya said. “We came together and pulled it out in the end. We always had confidence in ourselves, but after that we felt like we were going to win the whole thing.” Oak Ridge then won the Northern California championship with a 55-35 win over Palo Alto before beating Mater Dei to win the state title. “There are a couple of things that made the team so good,” Scott said. “First off, they were all good friends and had played a lot of basketball together. They always had high goals and they had confidence they could achieve those goals. “Secondly, we had so many good players and they each brought something different. We had great shooters; we had height and strength and depth. We had all the components that make up a good team. No one had a huge year, statistically, but everyone had good stats.” Another thing the team had were three Sierra Valley Conference Most Valuable Players. Moya won the award in his sophomore year, while Thompson won it in his junior and senior years. Anderson also won it his senior year, the year after the state championship. “What made us so good? It didn’t hurt having an NBA player on our team,” James said. “In fact, Hiram, Jacob, Andrew and Billy all went on to play college ball. We were all close friends and grew up together playing basketball. We all knew how to play and there was no animosity.” Moya added, “We were pretty good at making teams play the way we wanted to play. Also, we didn’t fear anybody.”