Two steals, a layup, and a free throw in the final minute helped Oak Ridge beat William Blount by one point, 48-47, in a regional semifinal game that came down to the final few seconds on Monday.
The Lady Governors led by two points late in the Region 2-AAA semifinal elimination game, Oak Ridge Coach Paige Redman said. But a steal by Lady Wildcats senior Courtney Ellison led to a tying layup by junior Mykia Dowdell.
Then, another Oak Ridge steal led to a William Blount foul and two free throws by Lady Wildcats sophomore Jada Guinn. She missed the first one but hit the second, Redman said. That gave the Lady Wildcats (28-3) a one-point lead with about half a minute remaining.
With just over two seconds to go, Oak Ridge got the basketball. But the Lady Wildcats turned it over with about 1.3 seconds remaining. When the Lady Governors threw it in, Dowdell knocked it out of bounds. The clock ticked down to 0.3 seconds. That wasn’t enough time for William Blount (21-11) to get the ball in bounds and possibly make a game-winning basket. After being nervous—the Lady Governors led 47-45 with 2:14 remaining—Oak Ridge fans were jubilant.
“Wow!” said Stephanie Thompson, Oak Ridge High School assistant principal. “What a win for the Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats!”
The Lady Wildcats never led by more than five points, and when they were ahead, the Lady Governors led by about three to five points, Oak Ridge Coach Paige Redman said.
“It was a back-and-forth game the whole time,” Redman said.
Oak Ridge led 15-13 at the end of the first quarter, the game was tied at 27 at the half, and William Blount led 41-39 at the end of the third quarter. The final score, in favor of Oak Ridge, was 48-47.
The Lady Wildcats move on to the Region 2-AAA championship against Hardin Valley (23-8) at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Oak Ridge was led Monday by Dowdell with 14 points. Ellison and Guinn both scored 11. Ellison knocked down three three-point shots.
William Blount was led by senior post Abbey McGuire with a game-high 17 points. She made five three-point shots. Sophomore Alyssa Walker scored 11, and junior Taylor Goforth had nine.
It’s the third time this month that a Lady Wildcats game has come down to the final half minute—or final few seconds. The Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats lost the first one, to Fulton. That was a non-district regular season game, so it didn’t affect Oak Ridge’s standing in the playoffs but it did help prepare them for the tournaments.
The season was on the line in the next two close games. Both were playoff elimination games, meaning the season ended for the loser. The first was against Bearden in a Region 2-AAA quarterfinal game at Wildcat Arena on Friday. Oak Ridge won 62-56, but the game wasn’t decided until the final half minute.
The next close game was the Monday night regional semifinal against William Blount.
Experiencing these close games could help Oak Ridge in the rest of the playoffs.
“You can’t simulate that in practice,” Redman said.
She thought the Lady Wildcats handled themselves well against the Lady Governors. William Blount made 11 three-point shots, and seven of those were in the first half. Oak Ridge guarded better against three-point shots in the second half and held the Lady Governors to 20 points in the final two quarters, Redman said.
She said Ellison made big shots in the first half and had that critical steal in the second. Ten of Dowdell’s 14 points were in the second half. Redman also gave credit to a late steal by junior Jaymi Golden, the defense and rebounding of junior Desiree Bates, and the final free throw made by Guinn, after she had missed one.
Ellison also played a key role the last time that Oak Ridge and William Blount met, in the Region 2 semifinal at Bearden on February 29, 2016. Ellison scored a career-high 21 points in that game. That win advanced the Lady Wildcats to the regional championship for the first time since 2010, the last year Jill Prudden coached Oak Ridge.
Hardin Valley advanced to the Wednesday regional championship against Oak Ridge by beating Maryville 66-52 in the other semifinal game on Monday. The Lady Rebels had the lead and the momentum in the first half, and they went into halftime ahead 33-28. They made six three-point shots in the first half. Two players—Olivia Pepperman and Courtney Carruthers—had nine points each at the half.
But 6-foot-2 junior Abbey Cornelius scored 18 of her game-high 20 points for Hardin Valley in the second half. And junior guard Lizzie Davis scored nine of her 11 points in the second half.
After making six three-point shots in the first half, Maryville (19-12) was held to two in the second. Carruthers finished with 18 points for the Lady Rebels, and Pepperman added 11.
Both teams in the Region 2 championship are guaranteed two more games: the regional championship and a sectional game. Besides bragging rights and pride, Oak Ridge and Hardin Valley will battle Wednesday for home-court advantage in the sectional. The winner of the Region 2 championship will host the Region 1 loser, while the Region 2 loser will have to travel to play on the home court of the Region 1 winner.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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