Note: This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Feb. 25.
HALLS—Oak Ridge hadn’t lost a district game in four years, but Powell ended the Wildcats’ long 70-game win streak during the district championship at Halls last week.
It was a close game, and Oak Ridge (20-7) led after each of the first three quarters: 26-16 at the end of the first, 37-35 at the half, and 49-46 at the end of three.
But the Panthers (19-10) outscored the Wildcats 14-9 in the final quarter for a 60-58 upset victory to win the District 3-AAA basketball championship at Halls High School on Saturday, February 17.
The Wildcats missed 16 free throws, including 10 in the second half. That could have been the difference in the two-point game. Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said the missed free throws were uncharacteristic.
“It hurts to lose a game, especially a championship game,” Green said.
Oak Ridge’s last district loss was also to Powell, during a 72-70 Region 2 championship win for the Panthers in overtime at Wildcat Arena on February 27, 2014. Still, the Wildcats advanced to the state tournament that year and finished as Class AAA runner-up.
After that, Oak Ridge went undefeated (16-0) during the 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-17 regular seasons, with seven district playoff wins total those three years. They made it to the state quarterfinal in 2015, won district and regional championships in 2016, and won district and regional championships again in 2017 before advancing to the state semifinal.
Oak Ridge was 14-0 in the district during the regular season this year and had a playoff win over Anderson County during a district semifinal game at Halls last Friday.
Oak Ridge, the District 3-AAA runner-up, will now host Knoxville Catholic (21-7), the number three seed from District 4, at Wildcat Arena at 7 p.m. today (Saturday, February 24). It’s a first-round Region 2-AAA elimination game. The season is over for the loser, and the winner will advance to the regional semifinal on Tuesday.
Oak Ridge, which beat Powell twice during the regular season and was the top seed in the district tournament, was led by senior Seth Caldwell against the Panthers last Saturday. He scored a game-high 19 points. Marcus Smith of Oak Ridge added 17 points, including two three-point shots; Levert Smith had nine points, all on three-point shots; and Javonte Thomas scored eight.
Powell, the number three seed in the district tournament, was led by Josh Woods, who scored 18 points. Green said Woods was the key, and Oak Ridge didn’t do a good job of guarding him.
Caleb Tripp added 13 points for the Panthers, including three three-point shots, and Westin Reynolds scored 11.
Powell Coach Gary Barnes said the games against Oak Ridge have come down to the last three to four minutes every time.
“We were tired of hearing about how many district games they’ve won in a row,” Barnes said.
Since Powell beat Oak Ridge 72-70 in overtime in 2014, the Wildcats had won 11 games against the Panthers in four seasons.
“We knew we were the team that could break that streak,” Barnes said.
Powell, the District 3 champion, will host William Blount, the number four seed from District 4, in another first-round Region 2 game today (Saturday, February 24).
The other two first-round games are between Bearden, the District 4 champion, and Karns, the fourth-place District 3 team; and Maryville, the District 4 runner-up, and Anderson County, the number three seed from District 3.
The semifinals will be played Tuesday, and the Region 2-AAA championship is Thursday.
Catholic moved back up to Division I, Class AAA, after being a Class AA team since the 2013-2014 season, and the Fighting Irish were the Class AA state runner-up in 2017. Catholic beat William Blount 77-64 in the District 4 consolation game at Lenoir City on Tuesday to advance to play Oak Ridge tonight.
Oak Ridge and Catholic last met on November 13, 2012, and the Wildcats won that game 58-53.
The top four seeds in the District 3-AAA tournament—Oak Ridge, Karns, Powell, and Anderson County—all advanced to the Region 2-AAA tournament. The bottom four seeds were Halls, Campbell County, Central, and Clinton. Their seasons are over.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
You can see the 2018 District 3-AAA boys’ tournament bracket here.
See more photos here.
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