Oak Ridge’s varsity girls basketball team got a lesson in humility and the value of preparedness during last week’s Nike Tournament of Champions.
The day after Christmas, Oak Ridge’s girls flew out to Phoenix, Ariz. for the tournament — one of the most prestigious in the nation. Hoping to at least walk away with a few wins the Lady Trojans faced some of the toughest competition they’ve seen in the preseason, sending them home with a single win, three losses and an overall record of 9-5.
“I think we learned about what we need to do to compete at that level,” coach Steve White said in an interview with Village Life Monday. “We’ve got some things to work on in practice this week as we head into league.”
Last year’s state champs opened the tournament strong against Phoenix’s Desert Vista Monday, Dec. 27, holding the lead throughout the game for a respectable 65-50 finish.
But the following day brought a real wake-up for Oak Ridge: The team faced off with Southern California’s Bonita High School, who dealt the Lady Trojans their biggest loss of the season with a final score of 59-37.
Bumped out of contention for the tournament championship, the girls would experience two close losses — 51-52 against Washington State’s Cleveland High School and 47-51 against Woodington, also from Washington — before heading home New Year’s Eve.
“With Bonita, we didn’t come out with the energy and effort we needed against a quality team,” White said.
“We had the opportunity to win the last two games, but we couldn’t close the deal … we lost to Cleveland on a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left on the clock.”
Whether the jet lag, unfamiliar locale or an overall lack of competitive spirit due to playing out of town during the holiday season were factors in the losses is anybody’s guess, as far as White was concerned.
“It’s hard to pinpoint when you travel,” he said.
White said he hopes the team can turn the losses into a positive learning experience as Oak Ridge heads into league play, which looks to be considerably tough in the Delta River League. After this Saturday’s final preseason game against Del Oro, the girls will face off with St. Francis at 7 p.m. Monday in Sacramento. The Troubadors also participated in the Nike tournament and hold a current record of 4-4.