Note: This story was last updated at 1:30 a.m. Feb. 15
KNOXVILLE—Oak Ridge opened up a large 80-49 lead over Central in the second half of a district semifinal game in Knoxville on Saturday, and the Wildcats will move on to play Karns in the district championship at Central on Tuesday.
The game had been closer at halftime, with Oak Ridge (25-2) ahead 35-27.
But the Wildcats’ defense improved in the third quarter, and Oak Ridge outscored Central 27-12. Sophomore shooting guard Tajion Jones came off the bench to knock down three three-pointers within about one minute in the third quarter to give Oak Ridge a 20-point lead at 56-36.
“What a night for Tajion Jones,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said.
Jones’ three-point shooting followed an earlier Oak Ridge game that was heavy on three-point shooting. In a semifinal girls’ game, the Lady Wildcats knocked down eight of them in a 60-54 overtime loss to Powell, including three each by Courtney Ellison and Jasmine Hembry.
Jones, who had 11 points in the third quarter of the boys’ game, finished with 18 points total in the District 3-AAA semifinal game at Central (11-20) on Saturday.
In the first half, Anthony Gibson, another sophomore shooting guard, scored 13 points, ending the night with 17 total. Gibson came off the bench one week ago in a thrilling one-point win over Fulton to score 10 points in the first half and 13 on the night. He helped Oak Ridge, which has been ranked number one in the state in Class AAA, get back in that game and started for the Wildcats this week.
“Anthony’s had two really good back-to-back games,” Green said. “They call him ‘Buckets.’ He can put it in the hole.”
Green said the game was a “tough fight” through the first two quarters. But the Wildcats’ tempo and style seemed to get to Central in the second half, he said.
Green said the Wildcats, who are undefeated in the district and in Tennessee, have great balance so that even if one player doesn’t have a great night, others can step up.
“We have other guys that can make plays,” he said.
Junior Darel Middleton had eight points and six rebounds for Oak Ridge and was a big factor for the Wildcats on both ends of the floor, Green said.
Junior Javien Johnson had 12 points and five rebounds, and junior point guard Geevantay Gee had 12 points, three assists, and four rebounds.
Top scorers for Central were Markess Underwood and Lonnie Jones, who each had 12.
The first round of the boys’ Region 2 tournament will be played at Oak Ridge at 7 p.m. Saturday, February 21. Oak Ridge won’t know who it plays until Tuesday.
A win in the district championship against Karns, which beat Halls 72-67 in overtime in another boys’ semifinal game on Saturday, would mean the regional semifinal game would be played at home, Green said.
The first round of the girls’ regional tournament starts on Friday.
Before then, though, the Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats will play in a consolation game at Central at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Bobcats will play Halls in the boys’ consolation game at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
More information will be added as it becomes available.