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Poise under pressure

Lady Trojans show fight against St. Francis
By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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Friday’s win over St. Francis was more than just a big win against a rival. Coming off a disappointing loss to Sheldon three days before, the Lady Trojans needed a win to get their mojo back, as they prepare for the playoffs. Secondly, the 43-42 win over the Troubadours was important to guaranteeing a home playoff game and perhaps, two if they can beat Ponderosa tonight and possibly earn the No. 4 seed. Following the loss to Sheldon, Oak Ridge had slipped to the seventh seed. Win or lose against St. Francis, this was a tough week for the Lady Trojans. “You knew when you looked at the schedule that this week was going to be brutal,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “To get the split and beat St. Francis in exciting fashion allows us to enjoy the weekend before we get back at it on Monday.” Oak Ridge, 6-3 in the Delta River League and 18-7 overall, plays its final regular season game at Ponderosa tonight. The playoffs begin on Feb. 21. Oak Ridge’s win over St. Francis was as exciting as their come-from-behind 47-41 overtime win over the Troubadours three weeks earlier, and they did it with only four points from leading scorer Jenna Klein, who battled foul trouble as well as a suffocating St. Francis defense throughout the game. “That’s a tribute to the rest of the team to win when Jenna only has four points,” White said. “Everyone on this team has the ability to give us a spark or a lift offensively and tonight people stepped up. That’s why I got everyone into the game early to see which player had it tonight.” Haley Anderson scored five of her game-high 11 points in the final 65 seconds, the first three giving Oak Ridge a brief lead and the second two giving them to 43-42 win. With her team trailing 39-38, Anderson drained a three with 1:05 to play to give her team a 41-39 lead, only the team’s second lead since early in the second quarter. St. Francis’ Rachel Frank, who led the Troubies with eight points, answered Anderson’s trifecta with one of her own to put St. Francis in front with 41 seconds to play. Anderson then found herself one-on-one with a defender in the final 25 seconds and made the move. “They had a total overload on the left side of the floor and I knew I was going to take my defender off the dribble and it worked out well for me,” Anderson said. Her layup with 21 seconds remaining accounted for the last points of the game. St. Francis had one last chance, but turned the ball over on an errant pass that went right to Nikki Dow, who looked as surprised as anyone when she found the ball in her hands. “It was two teams going after the win and each was making shots to win it,” White said. “Haley had a lot of poise to make that layup. Jenn (Hoffman) came off the bench and played with confidence and did a good job attacking the basket. Lauren (Sende) was a monster on the boards in the second half. Michelle (Barkley) and Nikki (Dow) gave us a couple key defensive possessions late and Jenna (Klein), even though she was struggling with foul trouble, contributed.” The second narrow win over St. Francis this season could have been more impressive than the first, which came in overtime. The Troubadours outscored Oak Ridge 16-6 in the second quarter and held a nine-point lead at halftime. St. Francis played an aggressive trapping defense, which caused several Oak Ridge turnovers. When the Lady Trojans did get shots off in the first half, many were off the mark. Most of the attempts came from the perimeter and beyond the three-point line. While they only made one in the first half, they kept right on shooting them. Oak Ridge came out in the second half with the emphasis of getting the ball inside, but still didn’t light up the scoreboard. Defensively, however, they held St. Francis to six points and trailed by only four as the fourth quarter began. Sende gave the team its first lead since the second quarter with a short jumper with 2:18 to play, making the score 38-37. Corinne Friend answered with a bucket of her own, setting up Anderson’s big shots to finish the game. Following Anderson’s 11 points, Hoffman scored 10, while Sende had nine. Prior to the game Oak Ridge celebrated the team’s seven seniors: Klein, Sende, Katie Hoisington, Jacki Bateman, Nicole Rucker, Lindsay Honaker and Kaitlyn Lendrum. “We wanted to do it for the seniors,” Anderson said. “I’ve been with them since being called up as a freshman and they’re a great group: very selfless and very motivated.” Hoffman added, “The seniors are fun to be around and they make this team. We wanted this game so bad for the seniors.” White said, “It’s nice to be able to recognize the seniors because they’ve put so much of their free time over the last four years into this program and hopefully the reward of being part of this family has been worth it.”