By Shane Theodore
After a close call against Shasta Wednesday, the Oak Ridge Trojans came into Thursday’s game against Rio Americano with a new mindset.
“We came into tonight knowing what we had to change and improve on to win,” senior center Scott Sanchez said after Oak Ridge clobbered the Raiders 61-46 to advance to the championship game of the Trojan Toss Up. See villagelife.com for those game results.
Both teams opened the game sluggishly as each squad struggled to a 14-10 Rio Americano lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Our scorers weren’t getting good looks, and we weren’t finding the shooters who were open,” Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott said.
The Trojans got more into a groove in the second period as Sanchez, who finished with only four points, locked down the Raiders with his defensive presence. Josh SImms scored eight points in the period to even Oak Ridge with Rio Americano at the half, 25-25.
Bryce Scott and SImms broke the game open in the third quarter. With 5:19 remaining in the frame, Simms put through a corner three-pointer that gave Oak Ridge a 36-33 lead. After Matt Howard and Simms each made two free throws, Bryce took over. With 1:48 left, he sank a fade-away three that gave Troy a seven-point cushion and after Rio Americano’s Jake Jensen answered with a three of his own, converted two free throws to give Oak Ridge a 45-38 advantage going into the final quarter.
“Bryce really pulled us through tonight, and that’s what we expect of him,” coach Scott said.
The fourth quarter was all Oak Ridge as Bryce, who finished with 27 points to lead all players, continued his hot streak. After Sanchez took a charge, Scott took a pass from Sean O’Donnell and drained a three. On the ensuing Raider possession, Sanchez pulled down a rebound and threw it ahead to Scott where he made yet another three to give Troy a 51-38 lead.
Led by Bryce, Simms and Sanchez, the Trojans cruised through the remainder of the quarter to the 13-point victory for a place in Thursday’s championship game against Bella Vista.
“We started out slowly, but if we play tomorrow the way we finished tonight, we’ll be hoisting that trophy,” Sanchez said.