Note: This story was last updated at 8:30 a.m. March 6.
The Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats are going back to the state basketball tournament in Murfreesboro. It’s the second year in a row that the girls have made it to the Class AAA tournament. They made it there this year by beating Daniel Boone 61-44 in a sectional game at Wildcat Arena on Saturday.
The girls finished as state runner-up last year.
This year’s state tournament starts Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State University.
Oak Ridge won’t know who it plays until a drawing at 3 p.m. Sunday. Only eight teams compete in the state tournament, starting with quarterfinals on Wednesday and finishing with the championship game on Saturday.
The Lady Wildcats were led by sophomore Jada Guinn with a game-high 18 points Saturday. Junior Mykia Dowdell had 15 points and at least nine rebounds. Junior Jaymi Golden added 11 points for Oak Ridge, and junior Desiree Bates scored 10.
The Lady Wildcats, who again used passes in the paint to score layups in the second half, also had at least five steals. Bates and Guinn had at least a half-dozen rebounds each.
The Lady Trailblazers were led by Sydney Pearce with 13 points and at least eight rebounds. No other Daniel Boone player scored more than nine.
Oak Ridge (30-3) and Daniel Boone (29-6) had relatively similar records coming into the game, including wins and losses to some common opponents.
The Lady Trailblazers jumped out to a quick lead and were ahead 10-7 at the end of the first quarter. But with help from seven free throws and a three-point shot by Bates, Oak Ridge had tied the game 20-20 at halftime.
The Lady Wildcats struggled against the 2-3 zone defense and the presence of Pearce underneath the basket in the first half. Pearce, who is over six feet tall, blocked two shots early in the game, and even when she didn’t block shots, she forced Oak Ridge players, including Guinn and Dowdell, to take tough shots under the basket.
Oak Ridge Coach Paige Redman told the girls to attack in the second half and pass quickly. Defensive pressure and stops, as well as pushing the ball in transition—not allowing the Lady Trailblazers to get into their zone—were also key, Redman said. She said Daniel Boone had to change its defense in the second half.
“They controlled the first (half),” Redman said. “We controlled the second.”
Golden started the attack in the second half, Redman said.
“We just never let up,” she said.
Golden gave Oak Ridge its second lead of the night, 24-22, about two minutes into the second quarter after a Daniel Boone turnover. The Lady Wildcats never trailed again. The Lady Trailblazers tied it only once more. Though they narrowed the Oak Ridge lead at times, they were never able to keep the Lady Wildcats from pulling away.
Guinn said the Daniel Boone zone defense was spread out in the first half.
“It was hard for us to attack,” she said. But in the second half, the Oak Ridge girls worked on attacking more and putting more pressure on the ball, Guinn said.
“Usually our defense leads to offense,” she said.
Daniel Boone Coach Travis Mains said loose balls hurt the Lady Trailblazers.
Also, “they (Oak Ridge) made some timely threes, and we didn’t make timely threes,” Mains said.
Once the Lady Wildcats took a larger lead in the second half, the Lady Trailblazers had to switch to traps and the press, Mains said.
Still, his girls “laid it on the line,” Mains said.
Both coaches cited missed layups and said their team should have been up at halftime.
Asked about going back to state for the second year in a row, Dowdell said: “It’s very special. No one thought we would do it last year.”
“It feels great,” Guinn said, “just to be part of the Oak Ridge tradition.”
“It’s really hard to do this two years in a row,” Redman said.
Daniel Boone was the District 1-AAA champion and the Region 1-AAA runner-up.
In another East Tennessee sectional on Monday, Hardin Valley, the Region 2-AAA runner-up, lost at Morristown West, 80-59, ending the season for the Lady Hawks.
Bradley Central, one of the teams that beat Oak Ridge this year, was eliminated from the playoffs, losing 55-49 to Stewarts Creek.
Meanwhile, Riverdale, which beat Oak Ridge in the Class AAA state championship game last year, advanced to the state tournament in a 79-58 win over Cumberland County.
The Oak Ridge Wildcats have also finished as district and regional champions two years in a row, and like the Lady Wildcats, they have been undefeated in District 3-AAA for two years in a row during the regular season.
The boys, the Region 2-AAA champion, will play David Crockett, the Region 1-AAA runner-up, in a sectional at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. Monday. The Wildcats advanced by beating Bearden 86-73 in the Region 2-AAA championship on Thursday.
The boys state Class AAA basketball tournament is at MTSU from March 15-18.
See the 2017 Class AAA East Regional Girls’ Basketball Tournaments Bracket here.
See the 2017 Class AAA West Regional Girls’ Basketball Tournaments Bracket here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See more photos here.
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