Oak Ridge basketball coach Bobby Edwards preaches to his players that a strong second-half start usually dictates the final outcome.
Playing for the consolation title of the annual Trojan Toss-Up against Rio Americano Saturday, the Trojans (7-6) did just that — expanding a 25-23 halftime lead to a 61-51 victory.
“Even though we were up two, it’s anybody’s ball game,” Edwards said. “We just wanted to come out and play as hard as we could.”
To open the third, Troy’s Tyus Millholin hit all three free throws after he was fouled on a three-point attempt. After Rio scored to cut the lead to 28-25, Trojan Connor Davis, named to the All-Tournament team, canned one of his four threes for a 31-25 difference.
The Raiders scored a basket and two free throws afterwards, but Davis and Millholin sank a trey each to give the Trojans a 37-28 lead. Three of Davis’ treys came in the second half.
“I’ve always told them that I believe that the game is decided in the first four minutes of the third quarter,” Edwards said. “I was taught that as a young player, and I’ve always believed it.”
The Trojans busted past the Raiders’ back court to score the bulk of their remaining points in the quarter and led 43-37 entering the fourth quarter.
The Trojans made three more treys and sank 5-of-5 free throws for a 54-44. Matt Battaglia’s trey and two free throws pushed the advantage to 13.
Edwards felt his team was more comfortable shooting behind the arc in the second half, making 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.
“One thing about the threes is when the threes were rushed early, they didn’t go in,” Edwards said. “We weren’t taking bad shots, but rushed them.”
Davis finished with 19 points. Battaglia had 14 and Millholin had 11. Conner Sende added six, Michael Brenneman, five, and Jared Holland, four.
Oak Ridge 68, Bella Vista 55
In Friday’s second-round game, the Trojans trailed 51-47 entering the fourth but erupted for 21 points while holding the Broncos to four.
Millholin had 22 points and Jordan Roberts followed with 15.
Oak Ridge 54, Shasta 58
Davis scored 15 points, Battaglia 13 and Sende and Brenneman had six each.