Note: This story was last updated at 12 p.m. March 7.
Cool under pressure, Oak Ridge seniors Tajion Jones and Anthony Gibson helped lead the Wildcats to the state Class AAA boys’ basketball tournament in Murfreesboro next week.
Jones, a Mr. Basketball finalist, scored a game-high 27 points during a 90-60 win over David Crockett in a sectional at Wildcat Arena on Monday.
“Tonight, he showed why he’s a Mr. Basketball finalist,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said.
Though the team lineups aren’t exactly the same, it was somewhat of a rematch of last year’s sectional, also played at Wildcat Arena, when David Crockett eliminated Oak Ridge 73-70 in overtime. The sectionals determine which eight teams play in the state tournament.
This year’s game wasn’t close.
“We played really well,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said. “This is not easy. It’s hard to get to the state tournament.”
Jones had been held to six and seven points in the first two Region 2-AAA tournament games. That changed starting Thursday, when he scored a game-high 24 in an 86-73 win over Bearden in the Region 2-AAA championship. He made six three-pointers in that game.
On Monday, he knocked down four more.
The Oak Ridge boys (30-2) will now follow the girls to the state Class AAA basketball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The girls’ tournament starts Wednesday and ends Saturday. The boy’s tournament is next week, from Wednesday, March 15, to Saturday, March 18.
Gibson, who has been a consistent scoring leader in at least the last five games, added 22 points for the Wildcats on Monday. He was named most valuable player of the Region 2-AAA tournament last week.
“He’s had a stretch where he’s played really, really well,” Green said.
Gibson hit three three-pointers, and he was 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Oak Ridge will find out who it plays in the Class AAA boys’ basketball tournament in a drawing Tuesday evening. The Oak Ridge girls play Memphis Central at 10 a.m. Central (11 a.m. Eastern) Wednesday at Murphy Center at MTSU.
Monday was the last game at Wildcat Arena for a talented group of seniors, all veteran players. Besides Gibson and Jones, they are seniors E.J. Bush, Tee Higgins, and Tyshawn Young.
Bush played his first game in almost three months after a knee injury that required surgery in December. Bush, who might have been playing the best of anyone on the team when he was injured in December, came in and picked up six points and four offensive rebounds on Monday.
“It’s really special,” Green said. “I thought he did some really good things.”
Bush will have nine days to get ready for the state tournament.
Higgins had 14 points and 10 rebounds, along with a couple of powerful crowd-pleasing dunks. Jones and Young also had dunks that fired up fans.
Oak Ridge junior point guard Levert Smith had four points, four steals, and seven assists.
Young had nine points and at least eight rebounds. Jones and Smith had at least four rebounds each.
David Crockett (19-16) was led by Camara Bradley with 17 points. Josh Releford was held to 15. Releford scored 28 points a night during the District 1-AAA tournament.
Green said Oak Ridge tried to trap him.
“We did a really good job on Releford,” Green said.
The Wildcats used the half court very effectively in the second half, he said.
It’s the fourth trip to state for the Wildcats in the past five years. Oak Ridge did not make it to the state tournament last year, having been eliminated by David Crockett in the sectional. They lost to Memphis East 68-57 in the state quarterfinal in 2015, finished as runner-up in a 60-58 loss to Blackman in 2014, and lost to Southwind 69-47 in a 2013 quarterfinal.
Of possible interest to Oak Ridge fans, Blackman (26-5), which made it to a state semifinal game each of the last two years, was eliminated from this year’s playoffs in a 72-68 Class AAA sectional loss to East Hamilton on Monday. Blackman is coached by former Oak Ridge Coach Barry Wortman, who coached the Wildcats for one season.
Bearden, the Region 2-AAA runner-up, beat Science Hill 22-9 in another sectional on Monday, and the Bulldogs (22-9) advance to the state tournament as well.
The other five remaining teams are Oakland, Brentwood, Independence, Southwind, and Memphis East.
See the 2017 Class AAA East Regional Boys’ Basketball Tournaments Bracket here.
See the 2017 Class AAA West Regional Boys’ Basketball Tournaments Bracket here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See more photos here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.