By Jackson Long
After a smooth dispatch of Del Campo in the opening round of the Trojan Toss Up Tournament, the Oak Ridge girls basketball squad faced a worthy opponent in the El Camino Eagles in the second round Thursday evening.
Oak Ridge survived to pull out a thrilling 61-54 overtime victory to advance to tonight’s finals but it wasn’t easy as Troy overcame a massive first quarter deficit on one end and near game-winning shot at the close of regulation play.
El Camino jumped on Oak Ridge from the opening tip, handing the hosts a dose of their own medicine in the form of an effective full court press. Three quick takeaways from the Eagles put them in front 7-0, causing Oak Ridge head coach Steve White to sub out his entire starting lineup. El Camino had a 9-0 lead before Nicole Rucker put the Trojans on the board with two points.
The Eagles continued to press behind their aggressive backcourt tandem to race out to an 18-2 lead before the tide began to change.
Jenna Klein answered an El Camino three-pointer with a 3-point-play and Kaitlyn Lendrum followed suit with another bucket and the foul shot. Jenn Hoffman drilled a trey and moments later, Lauren Sende scored a bucket in the key. The Trojans had closed the first quarter on a 11-0 run to pull within five at 18-13.
The scoring streak wasn’t over as Oak Ridge scored the first six points of the second quarter to put the home team up 21-18 and push the streak to 19 unanswered.
“I had no idea we did that (19-0 run),” White said. “We obviously pushed back when we needed to and it is really nice for the group to respond so well after a horrific start.”
El Camino finally stopped the hemorrhaging with a pair of free throws and basket to recapture the lead at 22-21 but a Hoffman trey put the Trojans back in front to lead 28-26 at the break.
Early in the third quarter, the lead changed hands a few times before El Camino established some control behind its 38-33 advantage midway through. With under a minute left, Lendrum hit a three and followed it with a jump-shot to put Oak Ridge up 46-43 heading to the home stretch.
With four minutes remaining in the game, the Trojans held a slim 48-47 lead and extended to 52-49 after a Klein free throw and Hoffman three-ball.
As time dwindled, the Eagles pulled even on two free throws. After a late Oak Ridge miss, El Camino had possession with five seconds left in regulation but a contested attempt at a game-clinching layup didn’t fall and the teams went to overtime.
In the four-minute overtime period, Hoffman made a three from the corner and Klein made a free throw on the next possession to give the Trojans a four-point lead before a wide-open corner three from Katie Hoisington with just 20 seconds remaining sealed the deal.
“Once we got into overtime we looked much more composed and relaxed,” White said.
Hoffman was the Trojans’ best scorer on the night with 16 points while Klein added 13 and Lendrum chipped in 12.