Trojans hold Bruins at bay, move to 3-2 in Delta River League

By: by Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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Every Delta River League game is critical for the Oak Ridge basketball team. Whenever Ponderosa comes into the Trojan gym, regardless of standings, the stakes seem to raise two or three notches.

Equal parts Trojan and Bruin faithful created a raucous atmosphere but Oak Ridge was able to sustain Ponderosa’s energy with a 50-40 victory on Friday night in El Dorado Hills.

“It’s a fun rivalry. We have a newer team so it was good to get some of our younger players a chance to experience this rivalry for the first time,” said Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott. “We were streaky. There were moments when we played really well and there were moments when we gave up a lot of easy stuff. That might work against Ponderosa but it’s not going work against other teams. We have to become more consistent over four quarters.”

Oak Ridge (13-9, 3-2 DRL) never trailed but the game always seemed tight. The Trojans began the second half on a 10-0 run that put them up by 20 that lasted until the 4:45 mark of the third quarter. Ponderosa then slowly responded with eight unanswered points to enter the fourth down by 12. The Bruins continued the run until midway through the fourth on a 15-4 run that cut the Trojan lead to eight.

The Trojans were defiant in withdrawing their lead as center Tyler Hatten tipped in a miss from Josh Simms. Connor Sende followed by keeping a Trojan possession alive with his own offensive board, resulting in Bryan Bare’s setup to Hatten underneath, giving Oak Ridge a 46-31 cushion with just over two minutes to go.

“In rivalry games, you have to expect a close game. We were up by 20 and I knew it wasn’t over. We were up 10 with a minute to go and I knew it wasn’t over. We just kept our confidence up,” said Simms, who kept reminding his teammates of the heartbreak the Trojans felt the last time Ponderosa was in their gym.

Eleven months ago, in the regular season finale, Oak Ridge blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead on senior night on a buzzer-beating jumper from the Bruins’ Josh Hufford.

“That was the worst night of my life,” said Simms. “I think about that game every day. I’ve been waiting a year to play this game. I kept telling my teammates in the huddle, ‘Remember last year. That’s not happening’.”

The Trojans hit three consecutive 3-pointers to close out the first quarter up 15-9. They shot over 50 percent from the field and kept the Bruin bigs off the glass in the first half. Scott was pleased with his team’s perimeter defense.

“We’re a better defensive team than we were a year ago. We tried to rotate on their shooters. When we rotate right and rotate quickly, we’re a pretty good defensive team,” he said.

Simms led the Trojans with 17 points while Hatten added 11 and six rebounds. Chris Snyder led all scorers with 19 for the Bruins (0-5 DRL).

Oak Ridge hopes to pick up the two more necessary victories needed to qualify for a postseason berth next week with games against Pleasant Grove on Wednesday and at Folsom on Friday.