Lauren Sende scored 16 points, pulled in 13 rebounds and blocked two shots Friday to help lift Oak Ridge past Kennedy 61-49 for the Lady Trojan Toss Up title.
Nicknamed “The Beast,”Sende scored 10 quick points in a competitive opening quarter before Troy’s 1-2-2 zone took over against the smaller Cougars who struggled offensively to get shots. Trojan Katie Hoisington took the defensive lead out front to disrupt Kennedy’s efforts to get looks at the basket which crippled the South Sacramento team’s ability to keep pace.
Oak Ridge’s Toss Up championship was its seventh straight of the annual holiday event, now in its 18th year. For her efforts, Sende was named MVP. Teammates Jenna Klein (13 points) and Jenn Hoffman (five points) were named to the all tournament team.
“That’s happened to me once before when I scored 10 points in the first five minutes. It’s exciting but the team’s real need is for me is to rebound so I try to focus on that,” said Sende who picked up her first-ever basketball award. “We watched Kennedy’s tendencies and noticed they weren’t that disciplined, weren’t going to box me out and I was able to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Friday’s Toss Up finale lacked the intensity of 2010’s section finals at Arco Arena between the two teams, won by Oak Ridge, except for the first quarter where the two battled back and forth. The Trojans broke down against Kennedy’s pressure and the visitors capitalized with transition baskets.
“We’re a different team than in year’s past and that’s an area we’re still working on,” Troy coach Steve White said. “It’s an ugly style we’re playing right now but we’re playing it to our benefit and it’s worked for us. This team has a lot of potential once we learn to value the ball.”
Oak Ridge led just 17-15 after the first eight minutes but extended in the second when Hoffman and Hoisington (eight points) connected on back-to-back three-pointers. Trailing by nine, the Cougars desperately needed a basket and got it when Lori Wong buried a three from the top as time expired.
Kennedy hung in during the third quarter but Trojan Kaitlyn Lendrum came alive with a pair of free throws before she rattled down a three from the wing. Oak Ridge took a 12-point lead to the fourth thanks to Michelle Barkley’s tip.
Klein scored seven of her points in the final quarter, Sende, four, and Haley Anderson (nine points) three as Troy built a 17-point advantage before the Cougars’ late push behind Lynette Johnson’s eight points and six from Tiaira Haskell.
Johnson, Kennedy’s big gun, didn’t start and never got going until late. Sende, Hoisington, Anderson, Barkley and Jacki Bateman forced Johnson to miss all her first-half shots and not score until 1:07 left in the third quarter.
“Lauren (Sende) set goals for tonight and achieved them. It was a solid all-around performance,” White said.