Matt Howard came off the bench to score a career high 16 points Thursday and Bryce Scott added 15 as host Oak Ridge High held off neighboring Folsom 57-50 to win the annual Trojan Toss Up title.
Oak Ridge threatened to pull away in the third, establishing a 12-point lead, but the Bulldogs narrowed the deficit to trail by four going to the final quarter. Folsom made it within 43-41 but eight points by Howard and another four from Scott kept the visitors at bay. Trojan center Will Findlay was named tournament MVP while Howard and Scott were all tournament selections.
With one remaining preseason game left against Yuba City before the Delta River League begins, the Trojans now stand at 14-0 on the season, a mark that includes four tournament championships.
“We’re always trying to make improvements and adjustments but I’m proud of our effort tonight — proud of how we responded in a rival game, against a league opponent and in a game everyone knows each other. We played this game to win,” Oak Ridge coach Bob Christensen said. “The intensity of this game is just what we want before league starts because every game (there) will be a dogfight.”
Scott opened the scoring on a slash to the basket and his eight points, including a three-pointer and one from DJ Leszczynski, allowed Troy to build a 17-8 cushion after a quarter of play.
Folsom charged back in the second when Bryson Bryant knocked down two free throws, Justin Woody scored on a backdoor cut, Taylor Trosin followed his own miss and Gurminder Dosanjh was the last touch on a fastbreak, but Leszczynski’s 3-point play kept Oak Ridge ahead by four. That’s where Howard took over with eight straight points to give the Trojans a 28-21 halftime lead.
“It was just sharing the ball. Bryce drew four defenders so I was open a lot,” Howard said. “We knew this would be a tough game. They’re (Bulldogs) right down the street so we knew we’d have to bring it and that it’d be an early test of Delta River League competition.”
John Cunningham’s offensive rebound and reverse putback early in the third quarter had the Trojans up 10 and the advantage peaked at a dozen after his two free throws. Folsom rallied with a 13-3 run before Morgan Elmachtoub hit from the elbow to sent Oak Ridge to the fourth up 38-34.
Tyler Simms zipped a pass for Scott’s backdoor basket to extend Troy’s lead as did Findlay. Coming off a big scoring game the night before against McClatchy, Findlay had just five points Thursday but contributed several key blocks and held his counterpart, Bryant, to zero field goals.
“We’ve played in a few close games but this was different — a local opponent and the win meant a lot more,” the MVP said. “It’s a nice win — we’ll see them twice more down the road. I think we’re ready for league but at the same time we know we can get a lot better.”
After the Bulldogs closed to within 43-41, Leszczynski struck again with a corner jumper and Scott found Howard under the basket where he let one defender fly past before scoring off the window. Howard added two more buckets and a free throw to offset threes from Woody and Josh Fisher and Scott and Simms each made two free throws in the final minute.
Leszczynski added nine points to the Oak Ridge total while Woody paced Folsom with 17. Woody and Drew Whitney were named all tournament.