By Jackson Long
If one was to watch the Oak Ridge girls basketball team play anybody save for a few elite programs, all of the games could easily blur into one.
Head coach Steve White has a formula for success that he uses in every game and it is a pretty difficult one to trump. White has his team press so vigorously early in the game that by the time the opposition figures out how to adapt, it’s too late.
Such was the case in the first round of the Trojan Shoot-Out on Thursday evening, when the Lady Trojans buried the Miners of Nevada Union, 67-46, with early defense and quick counter-attacks.
Nevada Union won the opening tip of the game, which would be just about the only aspect it would win, but just as quickly as the Miners had the first possession, Oak Ridge stole the ball and Natalie Stone laid in the first two points of the game.
Dakota McLarnan had an incredible first quarter for the Trojans, beginning with a three-pointer from the left corner to put her team ahead, 10-5. On the next possession she nailed another trey from the opposite corner, and followed up seconds later with a layup. Shortly after that, she went back to the first corner and sank another to give Oak Ridge an 18-5 lead.
When the first period ended the Trojans were up, 22-5, with McLarnan accounting for 14 points.
The swarming defense continued in the first segment of the second quarter and after Jenna Klein and Carly Bettancourt’s consecutive trifectas, Oak Ridge was up by 23, having only played 10 minutes.
But Oak Ridge’s hot shooting slowed down and McLarnan was less effective in the second quarter, only contributing four points. Nevada Union began to figure out how to break through Troy’s press and began scoring much easier.
“We went to a different press that we aren’t really ready to use yet,” White said. “They (Nevada Union) got some better looks and our shots weren’t falling like they were in the first quarter.”
After scoring 18 in the second quarter while allowing Nevada Union to play right with them and simultaneously notch 17, the Trojans led at the half, 40-22.
Oak Ridge had no where near the amount of success it had in the first half in the behind-the-arc department through the third, missing open threes galore. Even the hot-handed McLarnan struggled.
“She (McLarnan) can flat-out shoot the ball and we went to her until it went dry,” White said.
Alexa Pickett finally hit for the Trojans from downtown to put her team ahead by 21 at 47-26.
The teams played neck-and-neck in the heart of the third but near the close of the quarter, Nevada Union completed a three-point play followed by a make from behind the arc to pull within 14 at the end of the third, 53-29. But Oak Ridge finished strong in the final period of play, outscoring the Miners, 14-7, to close out the 21-point win.
McLarnan finished with 20 points and Natalie Stone had 10.
The Trojans play Turlock Friday in the second round at 6:30 p.m.