KARNS—They had a rough start in the season-opener on Tuesday, but the relatively young Oak Ridge Wildcats improved after the first quarter and turned a 12-point deficit into a 70-54 win.
Junior point guard Geevantay Gee, the only returning starter to play in the season-opener at Grace Christian in Karns, scored the only points for the Wildcats during the first quarter—seven total. Meanwhile, the Rams started hot and quickly racked up 19 points.
But after their nerves calmed, the Wildcats started defending better—stepping up their pressure and forcing turnovers—and their performance improved. For example, Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said, the Wildcats had two assists at the half, and Gee alone had five in the second.
After giving up 19 points in the first quarter, the Wildcats held the Rams to 35 total in the next three. Green said he thought Grace Christian became fatigued.
Oak Ridge was playing without seven team members who are still playing football in the Class 5A playoffs, which continue at home this Friday against the Cleveland Blue Raiders. Those who aren’t playing basketball yet include senior guard Ted Mitchell, junior center Darel Middleton, junior guard Colton Wade, sophomore center Joey Kocak, sophomore guard Tee Higgins, sophomore guard DeMarea Whitt, and sophomore forward Tyshawn Young.
Sophomore guard DeAndre Gibson, who had playing time last year as a freshman, has an ankle injury and did not play Tuesday either.
But Grace was also playing without some of its players because of the football playoffs.
Top scorers for Oak Ridge were sophomore guard Tajion Jones with 16, including three three-pointers; Gee with 15; and junior forward Javien Johnson, who had 13.
The Wildcats play next in two games at home on Saturday in the Hall of Champions. Oak Ridge will take on Christian Academy of Knoxville at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and the Wildcats will play Knoxville West at 8 p.m.
The girls team plays at 4 and 6:30 p.m., Green said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.