By Jackson Long
It wasn’t a breeze but when it counted Oak Ridge’s Lady Trojans stayed on point in the championship game of the Trojan Shoot-Out Saturday night.
An extremely tall and athletic Pleasant Grove team hung with the hosts for the better part of three quarter before Troy’s relentless offensive output equated to an 80-66 victory for the team’s fifth Shoot-Out title.
In rounds No. 1 and 2, Oak Ridge had its way with Nevada Union and Turlock but they knew the Eagles of Pleasant Grove would challenge. Oak Ridge’s full court press that typically gives it an early double-digit lead was negated against the smart and reactive Eagle squad, and after falling behind 8-4 Troy abandoned that defensive strategy to focus on holding Pleasant Grove to tough shots.
The Trojans didn’t stay behind for long. When Carly Bettencourt hit her team’s first three-pointer, Oak Ridge led 10-8. Pleasant Valley answered with a bucket and the foul, but Jenna Klein responded with another Trojan three.
The tit-for-tat continued when Pleasant Grove’s point guard nailed a deep trey from the top of the key to put her team up, 16-13. After a Trojan score, Klein repeated her previous feat and knocked down another trey to take the lead back at 18-16 before the visitors drilled another three-ball to retake the advantage. Oak Ridge scored once more before the first quarter closed and led 20-19.
When asked if he could remember a first quarter that close in the Trojan gym, Trojan head coach Steve White replied, “Wow, I guess the playoffs last year, but I don’t pay much attention to first quarter scores. It is the one at the end of the fourth I care about.”
More than half of Oak Ridge’s made shots from the field in the first quarter were from beyond the arc.
Consecutive layups from Natalie Stone followed by long-ball from the Eagles moved the score to 24-22, but Troy took a five point lead with 4:30 left in the half when Dakota McLarnan hit a three.
The shooting heated up even more for both teams when Pleasant Grove’s third three of the game tied things at 29-29. Haley Anderson then made a deep three for Oak Ridge but that was nullified when seconds later the Eagles matched it to even the score again. McLarnan then put in another two three-pointers for the Trojans, which gave them the biggest lead of the game for either team at 38-32. Alexa Pickett capped Oak Ridge’s long-range shooting when she nailed another three to put the home team up seven.
With five seconds left in the half, Pleasant Grove nailed a half court shot that dropped everyone’s jaws in the gymnasium. Oak Ridge had nine threes in the first two quarters in comparison to Pleasant Grove’s five but it was still close at the midway point with the Trojans up 41-37.
“We shot the ball well and when we do that we can live by it,” White said.
A 6-0 run by Oak Ridge gave them a 10-point lead out of the gates in the third quarter. The teams traded baskets but the Trojan lead didn’t dip below seven for the rest of the quarter and heading to the fourth Oak Ridge held a 54-47 advantage.
McLarnan’s three pushed the lead back to 10 in the fourth and she hit another from downtown to put Troy up 15 as Oak Ridge glided to the 14-point win.
“It came down to both teams getting shots and we just made them in the second half,” White said.
McLarnan had her best scoring performance of the three-day tournament with 24 points and Bettencourt put in 17. Bettencourt was named MVP while McLarnan, Stone and Anderson were each selected to the all tournament team.