The Oak Ridge boys basketball team trailed Jesuit for nearly the entire game in Wednesday’s first Delta River League Wednesday, but with the home crowd rocking the gym the Trojans came from behind in the second half for what became an epic battle as Troy forced the contest into overtime and finished the job, winning 82-66.
“I told our players we needed to stay calm and play our game, play Trojan basketball,” Oak Ridge coach Bob Christensen said about his halftime message.
The Trojans took the floor in the second half behind 32-20 and by the start of the fourth had only trimmed two points off the deficit. In the final eight minutes Oak Ridge got back to playing “Trojan ball” and Bryce Scott, who was held scoreless throughout the first half, began to heat up.
Possession after possession, Oak Ridge put up points and held Jesuit in check led by Will Findlay’s defense, grabbling the momentum and closing the gap.
“Will anchors our defense. He averages four blocks a game and the team knows that he is a force for us down low,” Christensen said.
Down by eight with just 1:30 left, Trojan Tyler Simms buried a three-pointer from the right wing. After the Marauders turned the ball over in the ensuing transition, Scott dished off to Simms, who didn’t hesitate to jack up another long three-ball to pull Oak Ridge within two.
In the last seconds, DJ Leszczynski’s steal led to Simms’ layup that gave the Trojans their first lead of the game, 59-58. Jesuit’s Akachi Okugo drove to the hoop with 18 seconds on the clock, rattled home the layup and was fouled. He converted on the 3-point play for a 61-59 Marauder lead.
Nine seconds were still left on the clock — Oak Ridge desperately needed a basket. Scott dribbled up the floor and was pushed from behind at mid-court with five seconds left, and with Jesuit in bonus, went to the line. With the game on his shoulders, Scott put his first half struggles behind him and calmly drained two clutch free throws to tie the game at 61. Okugo threw up a prayer that fell short as time expired, sending the game to overtime.
“In the first half I was pressing too much,” Scott said about the turnaround. “In the second half I was able to settle down and play my game, letting things come to me.”
The game quickly became one-sided in favor of the Trojans in overtime. Oak Ridge fed off the high energy home crowd and slowly but effectively pulled away from Jesuit in taking over the game. Scott was instrumental in final minutes, sinking field goals and free throws to secure the win and Oak Ridge’s defense stood tall, allowing just five Marauder points. At the buzzer, the crowd stormed the court to celebrate with the team.
Scott finished with 21 points, Lesczcynski had a big 18-point night and Simms scored 15. Along with his defensive effort, Findlay bucketed 10 and Matt Howard scored seven off the bench.
“We came out tight. This was our first league game and we weren’t prepared. To be able to pull off the comeback though really is a testament to our players,” Christensen said.
Oak Ridge is 16-0 overall, 1-0 in the DRL. The Trojans are at Folsom Friday.