Trojans have tough week with top teams

By: Nick Pecoraro Telegraph Correspondent
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In terms of scheduling, it doesn’t get much tougher than facing Sheldon and Jesuit in one week. Oak Ridge played the top two teams in the Delta River League and the Sacramento area last week and found the going as tough as expected. The Trojans lost both games by double-digits to fall to 4-5 in league games and 14-11 overall. The team hopes to finish the regular season on a high note when they play host to Ponderosa on Friday, before the playoffs start on Feb. 22. Despite two straight losses, the Trojans’ remain confident about making a run for a section title. “We’re not too worried,” said senior Matt Howard. “We can play with any team in Sacramento. It’s been obvious but we have to be consistent throughout the game. We’ve got to come out focused against Ponderosa and get that win.” After falling to Sheldon on Jan. 25, 64-48, the Trojans lost to Jesuit on Friday, 66-43. “(Jesuit’s) not ranked No. 2 for nothing,” said Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott. “They share the ball. They have a lot of guys that can shoot and do offensive things so they’re tough to defend. We were really passive against their pressure and we made a lot of silly turnovers trying to force stuff that wasn’t there. They’re better than us and we didn’t play well.” Jesuit had three players in double-figures, led by point guard Parker Uu with 18, as Bryce Pressley added nine points with 11 rebounds and four assists. Jesuit began the game with a 7-0 cushion thanks to three early Trojan turnovers. In the second, Bryce Scott rose up to block Pressley’s layup attempt. On the next defensive possession, Scott stepped into the passing lane, stole the ball and drove to the hoop for a lay-in plus a foul on Pressley. The sequence cut the Oak Ridge deficit to four after Scott’s free throw. After Oak Ridge cut the lead to just three before halftime, Jesuit began the third on a 12-2 run over the first three minutes. The Trojans crawled back by crashing the boards and getting defensive stops for an 11-point run, bringing them back within single digits. The Marauders answered in the fourth as Pressley and Akachi Okugo led their own 11-point stretch to extend the lead to 20 with two minutes remaining, ultimately closing the door on the Trojans. Jesuit outscored Oak Ridge in the second half, 45-25. “You’ve got to play four quarters against (Jesuit) or else you’re going to get beat,” said Oak Ridge guard Matt Howard, who scored eight points to go with three steals. “They run a lot and they’ve been playing together for a long time. They have good chemistry and know where each other are at on the court. They’re tough to beat.” Scott led the Trojans with 16 points and five boards, while Okugo had 16 points and Brian Glodowski added 13 for Jesuit. Two days before, Sheldon avenged their previous loss to Oak Ridge, beating the Trojans by a comfortable 16 points, 64-48. While it was a decent-sized victory, the game could have been a lot closer had Oak Ridge tightened a few things up. Oak Ridge missed 20 free throws, making only 19-of-39, and Sheldon also hit two buzzer-beating three-pointers from long range at the end of the first two quarters. Had the Trojans made half of their missed free throws and Sheldon not made those two desperation threes, it would have been a whole different game. “I’m happy with the effort,” Scott said. “We’re not that far away. We were down nine points in the fourth quarter with the ball and then we started missing free throws. Sheldon lost by two points to Salesian on Saturday and they’re one of the best teams in the state. These experiences playing against the best teams in the area are only going to help us come playoff time.” Oak Ridge trailed 12-11 in the final 10 seconds of the first quarter before Armani Hampton knocked down a three from between the three-point line and midcourt to increase the lead to four. It was one of nine three-pointers Sheldon made on the night. Trailing 17-16 with 5:46 to play in the first half, Oak Ridge managed only seven points the rest of the way, while the Huskies scored 17 to take a 34-23 lead into the break. Tyler Morris’ three at the buzzer sent Oak Ridge into the locker room on a downer. After Sheldon game out in the third on a 9-1 run to go up by 19, Oak Ridge picked up their game and finished the quarter on a 12-4 run to get the lead back to 11. Scott scored nine of those points, while Sean O’Donnell also knocked down a three. With 4:58 to play in the fourth, Oak Ridge trailed 51-43, but that’s as close as they would get. Hampton’s three with 3:43 to play, along with back-to-back Trojan turnovers and two missed free throws put an end to any chance of a Trojan victory. “Sheldon shot the ball well, give them credit,” Scott said. “We did a better job in the second half, but we can’t afford to miss 20 free throws against a team like Sheldon.” Scott scored 26 points to lead the Trojans and Scott Sanchez had eight and Howard scored six. Matt Long contributed to this article.