Note: This story was last updated at 11:45 p.m.
The Oak Ridge boys’ basketball team advanced to the Region 2 finals with a 61-58 win over Karns on Tuesday in front of the one of the largest crowds ever at Wildcat Arena.
It was the third time this year that the Wildcats (29-6) have beat the Beavers, and the win guarantees them at least two more post-season games.
“It’s hard to beat any team three times, especially a good team,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said.
Oak Ridge will play Powell (22-9) at 7 p.m. Thursday at home in the Region 2 finals. The outcome will determine whether the Wildcats play at home or away in a Monday sectional game where teams will fight for a chance to go to the state tournament in Murfreesboro in March.
It was a battle to beat the Beavers (23-7) in the Region 2-AAA semifinal game on Tuesday. In that sense, the game was much like the two earlier contests.
Karns’ senior guard Devin Sibley scored 25 points, including six from three-point range and nine from the free throw line. Two other Beavers, Garrett Brown and Blake Bowman, scored 12 each.
Meanwhile, a few Wildcats got into foul trouble. Senior forward Kevin Steen, who finished with 12 points, second-highest among the Wildcats, fouled out in the fourth quarter. And Oak Ridge had to switch to zone play in the third quarter to keep senior guard Jaylin Henderson, who finished with a team-high 26 points, out of foul trouble.
The Wildcats had been up 31-26 at halftime, but trailed 41-42 at the end of the third.
“We survived the third quarter,” Green said.
Oak Ridge went back to man-to-man coverage in the fourth quarter, and a basket by junior guard Ted Mitchell quickly put the Wildcats back on top. They were able to hold their lead for the rest of the elimination game.
Senior forward Seth Davis, who was recently on crutches as he recovered from a injury, had some crucial playing time in the fourth quarter.
“He had two big buckets late in the game when we needed him,” Green said.
Green said Mitchell did well covering Sibley, a tough assignment.
“We found a way,” Green said.
He expects the Panthers to be motivated on Thursday after giving up a 17-point lead during a District 3 semifinal tournament loss to Oak Ridge last week. Powell eliminated Halls 35-34 in the other Region 2 semifinal game at Oak Ridge on Tuesday.
Green said the crowd was a key part of the Wildcats’ win on Tuesday, and he wants to fill the 2,225-seat arena again on Thursday.
“Our guys are fun to watch,” Green said. “It should be a heck of a game.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the Division I Class AAA Boys’ Basketball Region Tournament brackets here.