STOCKTON — Oak Ridge can check off all scenarios in three victories over Pleasant Grove this season: home, away, neutral.
Tuesday’s at the Spanos Center on the University of the Pacific campus was the biggest as the Lady Trojans toppled the Eagles 59-45 for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal win.
Oak Ridge (26-4) now heads to Sleep Train Arena Saturday to face St. Mary’s at 6:30 p.m.
Sleep Train was the prize. Having previously defeated Pleasant Grove by 24 and five points, Tuesday’s victory margin fell in between.
“It’s always scary to play a team a third time — obviously, to be in this game means they’re a good team and this matchup is a testament to how tough our league is,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “We were a little sluggish to start but the first quarter was real good (22-10 Trojans) and when we’re unselfish it opens things up for us.”
Shaking off a dismal shooting performance at UOP in last year’s semis against Kennedy, Ali Bettencourt had a strong start with nine, first-quarter points. Jenn Hoffman led the Trojans with 17 points while Bettencourt added 13.
Oak Ridge had solid play at the post. Michelle Barkley scored six early points, pulled down 10 rebounds and filled the lane on one fast break to get to the foul line. Shelby Peters added five points, six rebounds and demonstrated her passing skills with five assists, three in the opening quarter.
“I trust they’ll (teammates) make the shots,” Peters said. “It was a little intimidating playing in the big arena but once the game started the nerves went away.”
Hoffman had the nerve to take over in the third quarter. With determination, the senior guard converted back-to-back drives before landing a side pop as Troy began pulling away.
“I knew we had to start off strong (in the second half), get ahead and keep the lead,” Hoffman said. “It’s hard (playing teams a third time) because both teams know what the other can do. Tonight it came down to playing hard and rebounding and we did that.”
Oak Ridge led 32-26 at the half but extended to 48-33 after three. Its biggest lead was 19 in the fourth quarter.
Isamar Conde added six points to the tally and had several key hustle plays; Grace Derksen had five; Saraya Smith chipped in four; and Briana Dulgar and Celeste Vitolas had a bucket each.