Note: This story was last updated at 3:15 p.m. March 3.
KNOXVILLE—The Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats upset Bearden and won their first Region 2-AAA championship since 2010 on Wednesday, and freshman Jada Guinn was named most valuable player in the regional tournament—one week after being named most valuable player in the district tournament.
The 49-35 win for Oak Ridge, the Region 2 champion, means the Lady Wildcats (27-4) will have home-court advantage when they play Dobyns-Bennett in a Class AAA sectional at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday. Dobyns-Bennett (25-10) is the Region 1 runner-up.
Bearden (27-6), the Region 2 runner-up, will also play in a Class AAA sectional, but the Lady Bulldogs will have to travel to Morristown West (30-3), the Region 1 champion.
Sectional winners advance to the state tournament.
Guinn scored a game-high 17 points for Oak Ridge against Bearden on Saturday. Sophomore Jaymi Golden had 14, and sophomore Mykia Dowdell added 12.
No other Oak Ridge freshman has ever been named MVP in both the district tournament and regional tournament in the same year, broadcaster David Clary said.
“I just feel good that I could help my team get a win,” Guinn said.
Some people considered it an upset. Bearden is a tall, senior-led team that made it to the state semifinals last year and spent much of the regular season ranked in the state’s top 10. The Lady Bulldogs have two 6-foot-2 players, and their roster includes senior point guard Holly Hagood, senior wing/post Chanler Geer, and 6-foot-2 senior post Anajae Stephney. Dowdell, Oak Ridge’s main inside player, is listed at 5-foot-9.
Oak Ridge Coach Paige Green didn’t mind if it was called an upset.
“I like that term because no one expected us to be here,” Green said.
She said Golden had some big shots. Golden knocked down back-to-back three-pointers in less than a minute in the third quarter to give Oak Ridge the lead and then extend it. Dowdell made some tough shots against Stephney, including by driving down the baseline to shoot a layup in front of Stephney and sometimes getting a shot over her.
“Mykia was huge playing against number 30 (Stephney),” Green said.
She said she’s known all along about the capabilities of Guinn, who made six free throws in the fourth quarter and was credited with seven rebounds.
“I begged her all season,” Green said. “We knew this was in her.”
Green said Lady Wildcats senior Caelyn Thompson brought intensity to the game against Bearden on Wednesday, and Oak Ridge pulled down more rebounds than Bearden. The rebounding in the second half was a “game-changer,” Green said. She said the Lady Wildcats had one offensive rebound and six defensive boards at halftime, and even more in the second half. That meant the Lady Wildcats were able to limit Bearden’s second-chance shots.
“That’s simply amazing,” Green said of the win. “That speaks volumes about these girls.”
The Lady Wildcats seemed to start nervous, missing early shots and making some uncharacteristic turnovers. Bearden went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter to take an 18-15 halftime lead.
“She (Green) just told us we have nothing to lose, and people said we’re the underdogs,” Golden said. “We had to go out here and show them that we deserved to be here.”
Green said the coaching staff had to stay calm to help.
“It says a lot about them keeping their composure,” she said. “We’ve had some big plays every night, and it’s been someone different.”
Guinn drove down the lane three times in less than in a minute in the fourth quarter, scoring on a short pull-up jumper, splitting two defenders for a layup, and going to the free throw line to add two more points. Those six points pushed Oak Ridge’s lead from 26-24 to 32-24. Guinn said the Lady Wildcats had to just stay poised and not rush anything to beat Bearden.
Bearden was led by Stephney, who scored 16 points. Freshman wing/post Keke McLaughlin had seven.
The Lady Bulldogs lost Geer, who went down with a left knee injury in the first quarter and yelled encouragement to her teammates even as she was being carried off the basketball court. Bearden Coach Justin Underwood said that injury took a bit out of his team, and the Lady Bulldogs stalled offensively in the third quarter, when they were held to four points. Oak Ridge also played good half-court defense, Underwood said.
Oak Ridge was the District 3 champion this year, and Bearden was the District 4 champion.
Bearden and Morristown West were both in the state semifinals last year. Oak Ridge last went to the state tournament in 2010. That’s the last year the Lady Wildcats were coached by Jill Prudden, and they won both a district and regional championship as well as a sectional game, Clary said. It’s the last time Oak Ridge went to the state tournament.
Oak Ridge and Dobyns-Bennett have already met once this season. In a December game, the Lady Wildcats beat the Lady Indians 42-34.
Named to the Region 2-AAA All-Tournament Team on Wednesday were Brooklin McCoy of Anderson County; Haley Schubert of Powell; Maddie Sutton of Heritage; Sarah Cain of Campbell County; Lindsey Roddy and Summer Morris of William Blount; Lizzie Davis and Symphony Buxton of Hardin Valley; Stephney, Trinity Lee, and Holly Hagood of Bearden; and Golden, Guinn, Dowdell, and Courtney Ellison of Oak Ridge.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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