Note: This story was last updated at 5:15 p.m.
Continuing a string of successes on the basketball court, the Oak Ridge Wildcats won the Region 2 championship in a 70-40 victory over Karns on Thursday. The boys’ regional win at home came one day after the girls won a Region 2 championship at Bearden.
This year, the two teams both won the District 3-AAA championships and the Region 2-AAA championships. It’s the first time that’s happened since 2008.
The Wildcats (34-2), the Region 2 champion, now move on to play David Crockett, the Region 1 runner-up, in a Class AAA sectional game on Monday. The winner advances to the state tournament. David Crockett (29-5) is one of only two teams that beat Oak Ridge this year.
“They are one of the better teams we’ve played all year,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said. “It’s going to be a tough game. It should be a tremendous basketball game. There’s a lot on the line.”
The Pioneers eked out a two-point 89-87 win over the Wildcats on two free throws in double overtime in the Arby’s Classic on December 29.
The Wildcats were led Thursday by senior point guard Geevantay Gee, who had a game-high 15 points and three three-pointers against the Beavers at Wildcat Arena. Junior wing E.J. Bush was named most valuable player of the Region 2-AAA tournament.
The Wildcats’ 30-point win over Karns (22-8) was the biggest margin of victory that Oak Ridge had against the Beavers in four games this year. The Wildcats and Karns last met in the District 3-AAA championship on February 23, when Oak Ridge cruised past the Beavers 88-62.
Gee also had four rebounds and three assists on Thursday, and his 450 career assists make him the all-time Oak Ridge leader, passing Adrian Porter, a Mr. Basketball finalist in 1999.
“He obviously had a great game,” Green said of Gee. “Geevantay is a tremendous kid.”
Gee is not known as a three-point shooter, and Karns appeared to leave him wide open on at least two of his three-point shots and paid the price for it.
Like Bush, junior wing Tajion Jones also scored 11 points, and he pulled down nine rebounds.
Junior wing Tee Higgins, who finished with eight points, had 13 rebounds. Green said Higgins responded to his message that the Wildcats need to work on rebounding.
Green said he was pleased with how the Wildcats responded on defense and pointed out that they held Karns to a low percentage shooting from the field. Oak Ridge went on a 25-9 run in the third quarter and outscored Karns 39-15 in the second and third quarters.
The Wildcats held Karns sophomore point guard K.J. Hawkins, who had 21 points and five three-pointers in a District 3-AAA tournament game against Clinton in February, to one three-point shot in the fourth quarter on Thursday.
Karns junior guard Taylor Everett, who scored 23 points in a Region 2-AAA semifinal win over Central on Tuesday, was held to five points against Oak Ridge on Thursday.
The Beavers were led by senior Devin Harper with 13 points. Freshman Thomas Harper scored seven, but they were all in the fourth quarter, when reserves came in for both teams.
The Oak Ridge Wildcats have made it to the regional championship game four years in a row. They beat Maryville in 2013, but lost to Powell in 2014 and Maryville in 2015. The Wildcats made it to a state quarterfinal game in 2013, finished as state runner-up in 2014, and were eliminated in a quarterfinal game in 2015.
Karns, the Region 2 runner-up this year, will travel to upper East Tennessee to play at Science Hill, the Region 1 champion, in another Class AAA sectional on Monday.
The Science Hill Hilltoppers (24-10) lost the District 1-AAA championship to the David Crockett Pioneers on February 20, but upset them 48-46 in the Region 1-AAA championship in Morristown on Thursday.
The winners of the Class AAA sectionals on Monday will advance to the state tournament in Murfreesboro this month. The Oak Ridge-David Crockett sectional game starts at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. Monday.
Before then, the Lady Wildcats, the girls’ Region 2 champion, will play Dobyns-Bennett in a girls’ Class AAA sectional at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday. Dobyns-Bennett is the Region 1 runner-up.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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