Close one for Lady Trojans
Challenged wire-to-wire by El Camino Wednesday in the second round of the Trojan Toss Up, host Oak Ridge held on for a 60-54 victory to advance to the tournament final against either Kennedy or Christian Brothers.
Returning to the championship game of their own tournament is nothing new to the Lady Trojans — being in a dog fight for 32 minutes is.
One thing the Trojans know is they can play at a frantic pace and kick it in overdrive when needed — and they needed to do just that against the undefeated Eagles.
Last March’s state championship game didn’t have Wednesday’s tempo and many of the same Trojans that finished that game were on the floor holding off El Camino, a program with three state titles during the 90s to its credit.
Oak Ridge maintained a slim fourth quarter lead thanks to Kaitlyn Lendrum’s huge three-pointer with 1:35 left after the Eagles had crept to within three. Jenna Klein swished two free throws with 13 seconds to go to cement the win.
“We knew it would be a track race and I thought we did a nice job taking advantage of their pressure and aggressiveness,” Trojan coach Steve White said. “Tonight’s game was night and day (from last night) in the way it was officiated and I thought the girls did a better job adjusting.”
The action was in high gear from the start as El Camino scored off the opening tip. The Eagles wanted to diffuse Oak Ridge sharp-shooter Dakota McLarnan and some other Trojan weapons but overlooked Hayley Anderson who bucketed all 15 of her points in the first half.
Anderson beat a sleeping Eagle defense late in the first quarter to score on Carly Bettencourt’s assist as Oak Ridge led 25-14 after eight minutes.
Anderson’s corner three enabled Troy to double up the visitors at 30-15 but from there El Camino slowly chipped away. Oak Ridge led 37-25 at the halftime break.
The Eagles came after the home team in the third and were within four points when Natalie Stone pushed back the Sacramento team with three consecutive baskets. The Trojan senior stuck an elbow jumper, scored on a break-out after an El Camino turnover and then hit from the wing. Before her streak, Stone, who played despite not being 100 percent after absorbing a hit the previous night, found McLarnan (10 points) for a corner three.
“I just looked at it as an opportunity to keep the lead and was hoping the team would pick up our intensity,” Stone said. “We stayed calm when it got close and talked about not falling to their frantic style of play.”
Bettencourt’s layin and Stone’s duck-in shot opened the fourth quarter. The Eagles answered as Lauren Donnenwirth scored inside, but Stone (12 points) snared an offensive rebound and passed out to Bettencourt who sank a three.
El Camino continued to make its move on Jade Sowell Hundon’s runner through the lane, and Alexis Haffner’s inside bucket and three Eagle foul shots pulled them to within 55-52.
In the final two minutes, Oak Ridge had big rebounds from Stone and Anderson to get possession and ran the clock effectively as El Camino fouled late in the shot clock to grant Troy another 30 seconds to use.
Lendrum’s trey extended the lead to six points and the Trojans maintained the lead as the seconds ticked off until Klein iced the win from the free throw line.