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STOCKTON — The road to defending 2010’s CIF State Championship got a lot tougher after last Wednesday’s 45-58 loss to fired up Lincoln of Stockton.
Under the new format started in 2010, the third- and fourth-place teams advance out of the Sac-Joaquin Section championships to the Northern California Regional Tournament so Oak Ridge is not out of it yet. Brackets will be posted Sunday but it’s likely the El Dorado Hills team will be on the road and will definitely meet one of the top seeds.
Lincoln of Stockton’s Trojans, seeded second in the section, looked relaxed without much intensity as they stretched and warmed up prior to the tipoff of the D-I semifinal game in the Spanos Center on the University of the Pacific campus. In contrast, Oak Ridge’s Trojans were crisp and energetic in their pre-game drills.
That all changed when the game started. Lincoln’s 5-foot-4 guard Alysa Valentine swished a three-pointer for the first basket of the game and the Stockton team took off, outscoring Oak Ridge 14-6 in the opening quarter.
Most of the damage was done by Lincoln’s Nyre Harris, who posted a triple-double on the night — bucketing a game-high 22 points, disrupting Oak Ridge’s transition game with 10 steals and crashing the boards for 14 rebounds. Harris also had six assists and got plenty of offensive help from Devyn Weymouth, who poured in 19 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Harris was quick and not afraid to drive to the basket. In the first half alone, Lincoln scored 30 points in the paint while Oak Ridge managed just 14.
“That team (Lincoln) was hungry, No. 5 (Harris) was phenomenal and the role players did their job,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said.
Oak Ridge’s Natalie Stone, who played despite an injury, converted a layup on a pass from Carly Bettencourt to open the second period and Jenna Klein’s corner trey pulled Oak Ridge to within three, 14-11, but like they did all night when the score narrowed, Lincoln’s Trojans answered. Helped by five Oak Ridge turnovers, Lincoln’s 11-4 run spanning five minutes sent the home team to the locker room at the half up 25-12.
“We talked about stepping it up in the second half,” Oak Ridge’s Dakota McLarnan said. “That No. 5 (Harris) was a quick player — they were fast and it was hard for our defense to keep up.”
Oak Ridge outscored Lincoln 17-15 in the third and down by just eight points, still had a chance for a fourth-quarter comeback.
Harris drove the length of the court for two, was fouled and converted the 3-point play to open the fourth then stuck a putback to extend the lead. Walberg and Lendrum both hit a pair from the line, Bettencourt added four on a fall-away shot and later a follow, and Haley Anderson was 3-for-4 from the line in the last eight minutes but it wasn’t enough to overtake Lincoln. Walberg, who missed most of the season, made the last two points of the game.
Bettencourt led Oak Ridge with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, Anderson scored nine points and pulled in six rebounds, and Walberg chipped in eight points and five rebounds. McLarnan scored six, Katie Hoisington had four, Lendrum and Klein both contributed three points and Stone added two.
“We came out this year and knew we had a lot of tough competition,” McLarnan said. “We worked hard all season and I think we’ve gone pretty far with this team.”
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