Trojans face big week against top foes

By: Nick Pecoraro Telegraph Correspondent
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Oak Ridge’s best chance to improve its playoff seeding comes this week with big games on the road at Sheldon today and at Jesuit on Friday. The Trojans, 4-3 in league and 15-9 overall, have their work cut out for them. The Huskies are the top team in the area and will be seeking to avenge an earlier 39-35 loss to the Trojans, while the Jesuit is the second-best team in the area and cruised to a 61-43 win over Oak Ridge in their first meeting. “We’re going to have to play unbelievable defense and shoot much better than we did tonight (against Folsom),” said Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott. Oak Ridge had mixed results last week, beating Folsom 55-43 on Friday, while losing for a second time to Pleasant Grove on Feb. 1, 60-52. The Trojans turned a four-point halftime deficit to the visiting Folsom Bulldogs into a 12-point victory. From the three-minute mark in the third quarter to the five-minute point of the fourth, Oak Ridge went on a 16-0 run, ignited by back-to-back 3-pointers from Bryce Scott that vanquished a three-point Bulldog lead. The eight-minute stretch put the Trojans ahead, 46-33. “We started playing better defense and not letting them get to the rim and we started getting easier baskets. When we’re playing good defense, we’re a good team,” said Coach Scott. Drew Whitney gave the Bulldogs a 25-17 advantage late in the first half with a 3-pointer fed from Justin Woody. Folsom finished the half with a 26-22 lead before Oak Ridge began its monster third-and-fourth quarter run. Scott shared the Trojan lead in scoring with 18 with Scott Sanchez, who also tallied nine rebounds. Matt Howard chipped in 13 points and three steals for the Trojans. Lee played aggressively at the point for the Bulldogs, finishing with 11 points and six boards while Whitney led Folsom with 12 points. Oak Ridge traveled to Pleasant Grove on Feb. 1 and what they experienced was much of the same outcome as their previous meeting with the Eagles on Jan. 11 (a 73-66 loss), this time with a 60-52 outing, resulting in the Trojans’ third league loss this season. “They were better than we were tonight, no question about it,” said Bryce Scott. “We came out flat and didn’t play with enough intensity to beat them. They’re a tough team to handle, so you have to play you’re A-game all the time.” Scott finished with 30 points (9-of-19) with five 3-pointers, but it was not enough to match balanced scoring from the Eagles (Cody Demps, 19 points, Matthew Hayes, 15, Malik Thames, 13 and Colfax Nordquist, 11). Howard scored 10 for Oak Ridge but no other Trojan had more than four. “Bryce had a great game tonight and carried us, but we have to have more contributions from other guys,” said Coach Scott. “(Pleasant Grove) is a top-notch team. They can defend around the basket. They’re good shooters, well-coached, and fairly disciplined on offense so when they move the ball to the open shot, they make them.” At the 4:15 point in the fourth quarter, Scott drove to the rim and tipped in his own miss to bring the Trojans within three points. The Eagles continued to pour in buckets and scramble for loose balls throughout a physical second half. A five-point Eagle lead forced Oak Ridge to foul with less than a minute left and Pleasant Grove executed from the stripe down the stretch. Scott scored 20 of his 30 in the first half but Oak Ridge turned the ball over 10 times (seven in the first quarter alone). Scott hit a three and a pair of free throws to tie the game at 28 with 1:02 left in the half before Demps hit a tough leaner into Sanchez and a corner 3-pointer that beat the buzzer to end the half with a five-point Eagle cushion. “We’ve got to crunch down. Our season comes down to this final stretch,” said Bryce Scott. “We’ll come out ready to go and see if we can sneak out some wins.”