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Welsch leads Oak Ridge to section final

Clutch basket, free throws lift Lady Trojans to 61-54 win
By: Matt Long
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With their best player in foul trouble most of the game and on the bench in the final 95 seconds of the contest, Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ basketball team pulled together and came from behind to defeat Grant on Wednesday, 61-54. The win advances the Lady Trojans to Saturday’s Division II Section Championship game against Valley, who upset St. Francis in the other semifinal. Saturday’s game at Arco Arena is 1:30 p.m. and it will be Oak Ridge’s third straight trip to the final, losing the previous two to St. Francis. With Sara James hampered by foul trouble throughout the game, it was apparent others would have to step up and they did. After a miserable first half in which she missed several open shots and had a few turnovers to boot, Caitlin Welsch came out and scored all 12 of her points in the second half, including a bucket and two free throws in the final minute to secure the win. Oak Ridge held a slim 54-53 lead with just under a minute to play when coach Steve White called time out. On the ensuing play, Welsch got the ball. “I just posted up and got good position and then put up a hook shot over her and it went in,” Welsch said. “I was really nervous for the free throws, especially after I missed two earlier in the game, but I just told myself to focus and take my time.” Welsch’s foul shots put Oak Ridge up 58-53 with 27.7 to play and Grant only managed one more free throw after that. Carly Bettencourt ended the scoring with a free throw and a basket to close out the game. Oak Ridge started the game slowly, trailing 8-3 midway through the first quarter, but came back to lead 14-11 after eight minutes. The Pacers, however, outscored the Lady Trojans 17-4 in the second quarter and led 28-18 at halftime. Oak Ridge usually scores 18 points in the first quarter, let alone in the entire half, so White was concerned. “We came out a little tight and we weren’t ourselves,” White said. “I give Grant a lot of credit. They had a great game plan and executed it, while we had some foul trouble and fell apart. “In the second half, though, we showed what we’re made of. The seniors stepped up big. Caitlin had a great second half and Kristina, who sprained her ankle yesterday in practice, she was just a warrior.” Kaleigh Durket also had a big contribution throughout the game, scoring nine points and doing a good job in the paint. Oak Ridge erased Grant’s lead quickly in the third quarter, embarking on a 12-2 run in the first four minutes to tie the game at 30. Welsch and Williams both had four points, while James and Bettencourt scored two apiece. Grant came back to take a 41-36 lead with 43 seconds to play in the quarter, but Natalie Stone hit a 3-pointer and Durket scored in the paint to tie the game at 41 with one quarter to play. Grant led 50-46 with 4:26 to play in the game, but Oak Ridge outscored them 15-4 the rest of the way to win it. Welsch finished as the team’s high scorer with 12 points, while James added 10. Durket and Williams both scored nine points, while Bettencourt chipped in eight.