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Trojans take two of three at Jack Scott Tournament

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The Jack Scott Tournament didn’t start well for the Oak Ridge varsity boys’ basketball team, but it ended well.

The Trojans dropped the opening game Thursday in overtime to Monterey Trail, 65-63, but defeated Center Friday, 41-28, and Kennedy, 46-43, Saturday and that was good enough for coach Steve Scott. The Oak Ridge coach loves teams that play hard and are good defensively and early in the season it looks like he’s going to like his team.

The Trojans aren’t scoring much right now, but they’re allowing even less, as Center scored 28 points and Kennedy was held to 43.

“I’m really happy with how we played,” Scott said. “We were flat Thursday and it hurt the way with lost that game, but we responded well to the loss on Friday and beat a pretty good Center team and then beat Kennedy. We’re defending really well and we’re hard to score against.”

On the other side, Oak Ridge is struggling on offense. They’re getting good looks at the basket, but at this point in the season their shots aren’t falling. As long as they continue to play well defensively, though, Scott can handle the lack of offense.

In fact in the win over Kennedy, while Oak Ridge only scored 46 points, they made baskets when they needed to.

“Grant hit a three to tie it and Josh Simms later made the winning basket,” Scott said. “We’re not turning the ball over and we’ll go stretches where we can’t buy a basket, but we’ve hit some big shots when we’ve needed them.”

Sergio Quilici, Connor Sende and Bryan Bare led the team with eight points in the win over Center, while Dean and Simms had 11 against Kennedy.

The Trojans led Monterey Trail 63-58 after a basket by Simms with 1:05 remaining in overtime, but Oak Ridge stumbled down the stretch and the Mustangs capitalized. Two free throws cut Oak Ridge’s lead to 63-60 and Oak Ridge missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the other end, which left the door open for a game-tying three-pointer by  Leondre Lintz, who tied the score with his wide-open look with 36 seconds remaining.

Oak Ridge held for a final shot, but Bryan Bare was stripped of the ball going up for the shot and in turn was called for a foul trying to get the ball back. With three-tenths of a second remaining, Lintz drained both his free throws and the Mustangs came back to win the game, 65-63.

“We turned the ball over, missed a free throw and allowed a wide open three and that’s what happens sometimes with a young team,” Scott said. “It wasn’t any one guy; it was a collective meltdown as a group. Hopefully, we learn from this. We didn’t execute well and free throws were a problem again. We didn’t shoot a lot of them, but we’ve got to start making more than we are now.”

The loss tainted a marvelous game by Dean, who scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, not to mention adding a pair of assists and blocked shots. Dean did it all for the Trojans, from the obvious like scoring and rebounding to the stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score like chasing down loose balls, setting solid screens and playing well defensively.

“Grant was our best player and had an amazing game,” Scott said. “Best game I’ve ever seen him play. He was outstanding.”

Oak Ridge led 16-11 after the first quarter, a quarter in which it scored the final 10 points, five apiece by Dean and Simms, who finished with 16. The Trojans, however, struggled for much of the rest of the game and needed a three-pointer by Dean with three seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Oak Ridge plays in the Pleasant Valley Tournament in Chico Thursday through Saturday.