A three-point-shooting freshman came off the bench Saturday and gave the Oak Ridge Wildcats the big momentum-shifting boost they needed against Farragut in the first round of the Region 2 basketball tournament.
Freshman DeAndre Gibson knocked down four three-point shots in the third quarter, first giving Oak Ridge a 34-33 lead and then—a few minutes later—widening it to 45-38, the largest lead of the first three quarters. Wildcats fans exploded with excitement after Gibson’s second series of back-to-back three-point shots.
“It was probably the difference in the ball game,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said after the 59-48 victory over the Admirals.
Green said Gibson got more playing time than normal on Saturday because another freshman, Tee Higgins, hurt his ankle and was not at full strength. Also, Gibson can shoot, Green said. That’s the result of hard work. When the coach arrives at the Oak Ridge gym at 6:30 a.m. each day, Gibson is already there shooting.
“He works his tail off on his shooting,” Green said.
Gibson finished with 12 points, trailing only senior guard Jaylin Henderson, who had 23, and senior forward Isaac Merian, who had 14. Oak Ridge (28-6) had struggled to shoot in the first half and was down 25-28 at halftime. Gibson’s three-point shots restored the team’s confidence and opened up the Farragut defense, Green said.
The Wildcats will play Karns (23-6) at home on Tuesday in a Region 2 semifinal game. The other semifinal game will feature Powell and Halls. It will also be played at Oak Ridge.
All four of the teams playing in the Region 2 semifinals on Tuesday are from District 3, and all four of them eliminated District 4 teams on Saturday. Oak Ridge beat Farragut (10-18), Karns eliminated Hardin Valley, Powell won over Maryville, and Halls defeated Bearden.
Oak Ridge beat Karns in both regular season games and gave the Beavers their first district loss in January, but the Karns’ team includes senior Devin Sibley, who is considered one of the best players in the league and has already signed with Furman University.
Leading the Admirals in scoring on Saturday were Billy Williams with 15 and Cameron Turner with 10.
See the TSSAA Class AAA boys’ basketball region tournament brackets here.