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With win over Sheldon, Trojans look to Eagles

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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With two big wins last week over the area’s top-ranked team in Sheldon, and archrival Ponderosa, Oak Ridge High’s varsity boys’ basketball team is feeling as good as they have all season. The Trojans will find out tonight if they can add to that feeling of greatness when they hit the road to begin the second half of Delta River League play at Pleasant Grove (3-2, 18-3). The Trojans nearly beat the Eagles on Jan. 11, taking them to overtime before losing 73-66. Now they’ll have to find away to beat them on the road. “We could have beaten them, as we had chances to win the game,” Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott said. “This time we’ll have to play better defense and shoot the ball better. We have to come into the game with a good game plan and execute it if we are going to win.” The Trojans picked up their biggest win over the season last Wednesday at home against Sheldon, then the top-ranked team in the area, 39-35. The Trojans’ plan was to slow the game down and it worked to perfection in the low-scoring win, stunning the bigger, more athletic Huskies. The Trojans snapped Sheldon’s seven-game win streak and held Huskies to their lowest output in over a year. “We were a little sloppy but I told the guys if they we’re going to mess up, do it on the offensive end and not the defensive,” said Scott. “It’s one of those deals where you believe you can do it and you prepare to do it but you don’t fully believe until it actually happens. To hold them to 35 points is unbelievable.” After collectively shooting 2-for-22 and being outscored 17-9 in the first half, Sheldon’s Kyiron Thomas began the fourth quarter with his third consecutive 3-pointer, bringing the Huskies within one. Sheldon took its first lead of the game with 5:45 left at 27-26 before Oak Ridge’s Matt Howard decided to take over the game defensively. Sheldon tied the game at 35 with under a minute to play on D’erryl Williams’ offensive put-back. Bryce Scott then found Scott Sanchez for a layup with 36 seconds left before Howard came up with the last of his four fourth-quarter steals and took it to the rim for a four-point Trojan advantage. Sheldon had four outside attempts from offensive rebounds in the final 15 seconds bang off the iron as the clock ran out and the Trojans celebrated with their student body. Howard, who sat most of the first half in foul trouble, came out re-energized in the fourth, scoring all nine of his points in the quarter and totaled six steals on the night. “Matt fortunately came in, picked it up and gave us some big buckets,” said Scott. “I just tried to play my game because I couldn’t really get in a groove during the first three quarters. I just tried to take over, find a lane and go help my team win,” said Howard. “We needed to knock off one of those top teams in league to get a playoff berth so hopefully this leads to some success there.” The Trojans didn’t lure themselves into Sheldon’s running game and played at its own half-court tempo. Scott led Oak Ridge with 15 points and 10 boards while matching Sheldon’s first half point total with nine. Sanchez also added eight points and 11 rebounds. “(Sanchez) played like a man tonight,” said Howard. “We’ve been preaching (tempo) all year. We’ve done it for a half but not in full games,” said Sanchez, who also took four charges on the night (three in the third quarter alone). “If we would have run, we would have gotten killed. This win feels fantastic.” On Friday the Trojans had little trouble beating the Bruins. The team worked up a 10-point lead after the first quarter, 14-4, and then extended it by three-to-five points in each of the remaining three quarters. Oak Ridge shot the ball particularly well from two-point range, making 18-of-32 attempts, which helped them pull away. Scott scored 24 points, while Howard added 15 and Sanchez scored 12. “Anytime you go to Ponderosa and win it’s a big deal because they’re our archrival,” Scott said. “Both teams get excited to play each other and I felt we played well for long stretches in that game.” Following tonight’s game at Pleasant Grove, the Trojans play host to Folsom on Friday night. JV splits two games After losing their third straight league game Wednesday to Sheldon, 61-60, the junior varsity Trojans rebounded to defeat Ponderosa on Friday, 55-33. The Trojans trailed 16-14 after the first quarter, but outscored the Bruins 21-6 in the second quarter on their way to taking a 35-22 lead at the break. The second half was all Oak Ridge, as they outscored the Bruins 22-11 to win by 22 and improve their record to 2-3 in the Delta River League and 15-7 overall. Brogan Cooper led the way with 15 points, while Andrew Cunningham scored 14 and Kasian Strawick finished with 13. Nick Pecoraro contributed to this story.