Lady Wildcats overcome halftime deficit to upend Lady Mavericks
The Oak Ridge Wildcats clinched the regular-season district championship against Anderson County on Friday, and the Lady Wildcats continued their fight for first place. Both teams won their match-ups against Anderson County at home in Wildcat Arena.
Foul trouble was a main factor in both games, and the ability to overcome that played a major factor for Oak Ridge.
The ladies were the first up to play, and they did not disappoint. The Lady Wildcats came back from a 12-point deficit at the half to win the game 43-39. A late three and some extra free throws by Oak Ridge proved to be the dagger for the Lady Mavericks.
Anderson County seemed to be all over the Lady Wildcats early. The Lady Mavericks jumped out to an early 16-10 lead after one quarter of play. Oak Ridge (15-8, 10-2 District 3-AAA) would then come out in the second quarter and score only four points.
After jumping out to a 26-14 lead in the first half, the Lady Mavericks (14-11, 9-4 district) seemed to have the Lady Wildcats’ number. Head coach David Scott rallied his troops.
“We discussed things at halftime involving our effort,” Scott said. “Our effort was not Lady Wildcat standard, and we discussed it, put it on the table…They addressed it themselves personally.”
The discussion worked. Midway through the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats pulled it within four points, thanks to a three from Jasmine Hembry. The Lady Wildcats slowly but steadily chipped away at the score. After tying it up 31-31, Anderson County hit a layup with 10 seconds left in the third to make it 33-31.
However, as time expired, Jaymi Golden nailed a buzzer-beating three to give Oak Ridge the lead, 34-33. The Lady Wildcats scored 20 points in the third quarter alone.
The final quarter was a back-and-forth for both teams. There were two different lead changes and a tie in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. However, another three by Hembry sealed the victory for the Lady Wildcats 43-39.
“They kept their head up and made plays,” Coach Scott added. “I think it’s the belief that they know they can come from behind…Jas (Jasmine Hembry) hit some big shots.”
Mykia Dowdrell led the team in scoring, even though she only had 10 points. Jasmine Hembry had eight, including two huge three-pointers. Caelyn Thompson contributed with nine points, three of those coming in the fourth quarter.
Kristen Cupples proved why she is an All-District (and possible All-Region) player against the Lady Wildcats. Cupples had 24 points in this game. She knocked down two three-pointers and was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. Klarissa Roberts also contributed with seven points, five of those coming in the first quarter.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Scott said. “Cupples is a great player.”
The Lady Wildcats will travel to Campbell County (10-13, 6-6 district) on Tuesday to take on the Lady Cougars. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.
Anderson County’s next game will be on Tuesday as well, at home against Clinton (5-12, 4-7) at 6 p.m.
After the Lady Wildcats’ stellar comeback, the crowd was eager to see what the Wildcats (20-2, 12-0 district) could do against the rival Mavericks (14-6, 6-5 district). Oak Ridge would go on to smother the Mavericks 73-51. The victory clinched the regular season District 3-AAA Championship for the Wildcats.
Oak Ridge jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. An impressive dunk by Darel Middleton in the first quarter had the Wildcat fans on their feet early. Middleton then went on to hit a buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the first quarter.
“He thinks he’s John Stockton sometimes out there,” head coach Aaron Green joked. “But, he’s very athletic and has got some good ball skills.”
The Wildcats were up 43-22 at the half, and they didn’t let up. Oak Ridge would go on a 22-4 run through the third quarter to bump the score up to 65-36.
Anderson County would pull it to 68-46 midway through the fourth, but it was too little, too late for the Mavericks, as the Wildcats sealed the deal with some late free throws to win the game 73-51.
The Mavericks never had the lead in this game.
“Most teams that we play, we’re gonna be the most aggressive team, and we take a lot of pride in that,” Coach Green said. “We’re to the point now to where we’re not young anymore. We gotta continue to show maturity…Hopefully, we can make a run here come February and March.”
Middleton led the team in scoring with 14. There were two players with nine (DeAndre Gibson and Geevanty Gee) and three players with eight points (Tajion Jones, Tee Higgins, and Javien Johnson). E.J. Bush had seven points. This was one of the most balanced games offensively the Wildcats have had all year.
Trey Bingham led Anderson County in scoring with 12 points. Seven of those came from the charity stripe. Three other Mavericks had nine points: Caleb Hayes, Grant Holt, and Grant Hill.
Anderson County’s next game will be on their home court next Tuesday against Clinton (4-11, 4-6) beginning right after the Lady Mavericks’ game.
Meanwhile, the Oak Ridge Wildcats’ next game will be at Campbell County next Tuesday immediately following the girls.
“It’s never an easy place to play,” Coach Green added. “They beat this bunch (Anderson County) by about 15 or 16 last week…We’ll have to be prepared.”
Next Friday will be the next home game for the Wildcats. It will be against the Knox Central Bobcats.
Trenton Duffer is a sports writer at the University of Tennessee Daily Beacon and a freelance contributor to Oak Ridge Today.
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