After a tough loss to highly ranked Sheldon, the Oak Ridge Lady Trojans came into Friday’s Senior Night matchup against Delta River League rivals St. Francis with a clear goal.
“We really wanted a win for the seniors,” junior Haley Anderson said.
So, after three physical, grueling quarters, the Trojans fought back and got that win by the slimmest of margins, 43-42.
With two minutes left, senior Lauren Sende put through a layup to give Oak Ridge its first lead since the first quarter. After St. Francis’ Corinne Friend made a pull-up jumper to get the Troubadours back up 38-39, Anderson took over. With 1:05 remaining, she took a swing pass from Jenn Hoffman and sank a three-pointer to give Troy a two-point lead.
“The last two minutes or so were so hectic, and I just told my girls that we’ve been here before. We won as a team, and that’s what I’m most proud of,” Troy coach Steve White said.
St. Francis stormed right back as Rachel Frank put through a rainbow three over an Oak Ridge defender to give the visitors a one-point lead with 41 seconds left. After a timeout, Jenna Klein took the inbound for Oak Ridge and found a streaking Anderson to take the lead right back. However, there were still 24 ticks remaining, which was more than enough time for another St. Francis shot. That’s when Nikki Dow came up huge and wrestled the ball from a Troubadour to ice the emotional win for the Lady Trojans.
Coming in, each team was headed to the playoffs with positioning the only real variable left to determine. Before the game, all of Oak Ridge’s seniors: Jackie Batemen, Katie Hosington, Klein, Sende, Kaitlyn Lendrum, Lindsey Honaker and Nicole Rucker were honored with their families.
When asked about what this senior class meant to him, White said, “They’ve truly dedicated themselves completely to Oak Ridge basketball. Staying late after school to work on some things, staying after practice, coming early to games to get some practice in beforehand, it all adds up. They are such great role models for the underclassmen.”
After the Senior Night festivities, the two teams tipped off. After a three-pointer by McKenzie Cannaro to begin the scoring, Sende was fouled and made her first free throw. She missed the second but the ball bounced back to her and she put it in for an unorthodox 3-point play. Sende, who scored nine points, and Klein, who contributed five, displayed leadership and hustle to help keep the Trojans in it. The two teams played to a 8-9 St. Francis lead at the end of one quarter.
Oak Ridge’s offense remained stagnant with only 16 first-half points compared to 25 for St. Francis.
Each team struggled to score in the third quarter until Hoffman, who scored 10 points for the Trojans, put through a three-pointer with 2:36 left to get Oak Ridge within 23-31. After Sende received a pass from Dow and made a layup, Hoffman took a rebound and drove directly to the basket for a layin which brought Oak Ridge to within four at the end of three.
“(Hoffman) gave us a great spark and the momentum that we built up really carried over to the fourth,” Sende said.
Michelle Barkley started the fourth with two free throws to get Oak Ridge within three but Olivia Molodanoff made a crucial three-pointer to get St. Francis up five, 34-29. Hoffman followed that with a layup and after a free throw from St. Francis, Klein was fouled on a shot. She made the first, missed the second but Barkley collected the rebound and converted to get the Lady Trojans within one. After two St. Francis free throws, Anderson made a layup to set up the exciting finish.
“This was a very emotional game for all of (the seniors), but we still have perspective. This is a great win, but we have a lot of work to do,” Klein said.