Oak Ridge heads to league play with superb 11-2 record

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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On the dawn of the Delta River League season, Oak Ridge High varsity girls’ basketball coach Steve White couldn’t be much happier.

His team has performed better than expected over the first five weeks of the season and the team is coming off a successful and fun trip to Orlando for the KSA Disney Holiday Tournament. Now the team is set to embark on the next part of the season Tuesday when they travel to Elk Grove to face Pleasant Grove in the Delta River League opener. When the teams met Dec. 8 in a non-league game, Oak Ridge won big, 75-31, but that game is ancient history.

Oak Ridge’s final game before league begins was Friday at Inderkum, a 52-40 win. Trailing 10-9 after the first quarter, the Lady Trojans outscored the Tigers 24-6 in the second quarter to gain some momentum and a 33-16 lead at halftime. Inderkum gained seven points back in the third quarter, but Oak Ridge held on for the win. Haley Anderson scored 19 points to lead the way, while Ali Bettencourt scored 12.

“The team has exceeded expectations thus far, but all that means is the bar has now been raised and we’re not settling for anything less,” White said. “There’s not one dominant team in our league and each game will be a challenge.”

Oak Ridge took two of three games in Orlando , losing only to Pflugerville High, a nationally-ranked team from Texas . The team opened the tournament with a game against Wellington , a replacement team called to play when Oak Ridge ’s original opponent decided not to attend the tournament. The Lady Trojans made short work of their opponent, winning 54-7, in a game in which the outcome was evident early. Jenna Ford scored 14 points, while Shelby Peters finished with 12.

Up next for the team was Tri-Valley, a top team from Pennsylvania that’s a contender for a state championship in the Keystone State . Tri-Valley features a post player who’s headed to a Division I college next year, as well as a very good point guard. Oak Ridge played well, however, and ended up winning, 58-49.

“We were down three at halftime, but outscored them by eight in the third quarter by doing a better job on their point guard,” White said. “Gabby Flores played outstanding defense on her by taking away her left hand and that slowed their offense down and forced other players to make plays.”

Bettencourt played well offensively, leading the team with 18 points, while Nikki Dow finished with 11.

As expected, the Lady Trojans struggled with nationally-ranked Pflugerville. The Lady Trojans fell behind early, 21-12 after the first quarter, and though they played better in the second quarter, they still trailed by 15 at halftime.

“We couldn’t match their team speed and did a poor job of rotating defensively,” White said. “We went to a zone in the second quarter and we executed fairly well, but we were just a step slow in the first half.”

White was pleased with his team’s play in the second half. After making some halftime adjustments, the Lady Trojans outscored Pflugerville in the third quarter and played them evenly in the fourth quarter until they had to start fouling in an attempt to extend the game.

Anderson scored 20 points in the loss, while Bettencourt finished with 13. Bettencourt was chosen by the tournament directors as Oak Ridge ’s most valuable player and thereby was honored with the equivalent of a spot on the all-tournament team.

Overall, White was pleased with the outcome of the trip.

“It was definitely a good experience for us and one that we needed,” White said. “It showed that we have work to do against quicker teams. We have to rotate quicker defensively and make the extra pass and be disciplined offensively.

“We played a good game against Tri-Valley and had to work hard to win. We had to make many adjustments between quarters and timeouts and responded well. We also played well in the second half against Pflugerville.”

Outside of basketball, White said the trip was also fun for the team.

“The girls had a great time,” White said. “They all get along well and they know how to have fun within the team and school rules.”