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Trojans hang with Huskies for awhile, but lose, 57-39

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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For one half of basketball, Oak Ridge High’s varsity boys battled Sheldon, the top team in the Sacramento area and one of the top teams in all of California, to a 24-24 tie.

Kudos to the Trojans, whose stifling defense kept the game at a pace and point range that could have allowed them to pull the upset. Sheldon, however, had other ideas, as a big third quarter led to a 57-39 win.

The Huskies outscored Oak Ridge 20-6 in the third quarter behind 13 points from Darin Johnson and quickly turned a close game into a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. For a team like the Trojans, who have had trouble scoring points at times this season, the 14-point deficit was too big a hill to climb in the final eight minutes.

Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott was disappointed to lose the game, but at the same time was encouraged by his team’s play.

“That’s the number-one team in Northern California and the kids fought,” Scott said. “I’m proud and happy with them. It was a pretty good performance. Sheldon’s been beating everyone in league by 30 points and to play them close for as long as we did and to hold them to 57 points was great.

“The downside is we could have won,” Scott continued. “My message to the team (after the game) was that we’re not that far off. If we would have shot the ball better and not given up so many offensive rebounds, I think it would have been a five or six point game.”

The Trojans came out with their normally tough defensive effort and also with a patient, ball control offense that was executing with great efficiency. Four of the five starters scored their first four baskets, as the team found the open man, who was in the early going, always someone different. Matt Battaglia scored the first basket on the floater in the lane and Josh Simms followed with another drive to the hoop for the next bucket.

Grant Dean scored inside and Bryan Bare followed with another score in the paint and the Trojans led 8-6 midway through the quarter.

Late in the quarter, Sheldon head coach Joey Rollings was hit with a pair of technical fouls and was ejected and Dean drained all four free throws to put Oak Ridge up 16-10 after one quarter.

Oak Ridge kept the momentum through the first two-plus minutes of the second quarter, as Tyler Hatten and Simms scored baskets as the team enjoyed its biggest lead at 20-12. The Huskies, benefitting from six free throws and a couple offensive rebounds that turned into second-chance points, finished the quarter on a 12-4 to tie the game at 24. Though disappointed to have lost the lead, Scott was pleased to be tied at 24 at halftime.

Not much went right for the Trojans in the third quarter, the least of which was Johnson getting hot from the field and scoring more than twice the points (13-6) as the entire Oak Ridge team in the quarter. Johnson hit three, three-pointers from three steps behind the line, sandwiched in between a transition layup to start the quarter and dunk to finish it and the Huskies took a commanding 44-30 lead into the fourth quarter.

Oak Ridge got a bit sloppy with the ball and the turnovers led to easy baskets, and the second-chance points were still being offered up, as Sheldon continued to pound the glass.

“Offensive rebounds hurt us,” Scott said. “You can’t give a team like that three and four chances, as that just forces you to shoot a higher percentage down at your end. We got good looks all night, but we didn’t shoot well enough.”

Sheldon cruised to the win in the fourth, outscoring Oak Ridge 13-9.

Sheldon only had four players score, led by Johnson’s 23 points. Antonio Lewis finished with 16, nine coming in the fourth quarter. Ryan Manning scored 10 and D’Erryl Williams finished with eight.

Dean led the Trojans with 10 points. Simms finished with eight and Hatten and Bare each chipped in six.

Like his coach, Simms said despite the loss, it wasn’t all negative for the Trojans.

“I thought we played pretty well,” Simms said. “In the second half our shots didn’t fall and they caught fire and went off on us. I’m proud of the way we played. We also got outrebounded like crazy.”

Simms said that the team’s play gives them confidence for the rematch at Oak Ridge Feb. 8.

“I think we’ll have more confidence when we play them again,” Simms said. “We’ve just got to sure up some things, like boxing out and not racing possessions. We’re confident we can beat them if we play well. Hopefully, we’ll get them at our place.”

Oak Ridge opened the week with a 51-37 win over Jesuit. The Marauders managed only 13 points in the second half, as the Trojans executed defensively as good as they have all season.

“When we play as a team, that’s when we’re at our best and that’s how we played against Jesuit,” Scott said. “Again, we played very well defensively.”

At the other end of the court, Simms led the team with 17 points, while Bare scored 13 and Battaglia scored eight.

Oak Ridge plays host to Ponderosa Friday in its only game of the week. Game time is 7 p.m.