Oak Ridge eliminated Catholic in a Region 2-AAA quarterfinal game at Wildcat Arena on Saturday.
The Wildcats (21-7) advanced to play Bearden (34-1) in a regional semifinal game at Bearden High School at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Oak Ridge was the District 3-AAA runner-up this year, and Bearden was the District 4 champion.
The winner of Tuesday’s semifinal will play in a state sectional game, which determines who goes to the state tournament, and the Region 2-AAA championship at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Tuesday night semifinal is an elimination game, so the season will be over for the loser.
The other semifinal Tuesday is between Powell (20-10), the District 3 champion, and Maryville (25-6), the District 4 runner-up. It’s scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, just before the Oak Ridge-Bearden game.
Catholic (21-8) finished third in the District 4 tournament this year. The team’s Saturday night regional quarterfinal against Oak Ridge was an elimination game, meaning the season is over for the Fighting Irish, who were state runner-up in Class AA last year.
Oak Ridge was led by senior Seth Caldwell, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, with 14 points against Catholic on Saturday. Junior guard Herbert Booker scored 12, and junior guard JaVonte Thomas added 11. Juniors Joe Kesterson and Marcus Smith scored eight each.
Booker had at least six rebounds, and Thomas, Marcus Smith, and senior guard Levert Smith all had at least five rebounds each. Levert Smith, who struggled in the first half, had eight assists, Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said.
In a game with at least 19 steals total between the two teams, Marcus Smith had at last three steals for Oak Ridge.
Catholic was led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Brock Jancek, who scored 12 points, all in the first half, including on a dunk. Scoreless in the second half, Jancek had at least eight rebounds, four blocks, and three steals during the game, but he got into foul trouble early, going to the bench after his third foul at 1:35 in the second quarter and fouling out with five fouls at 4:06 in the fourth quarter, or halfway through the last period. Jancek was guarded much of the night by Oak Ridge’s Caldwell.
Catholic was led in steals by senior guard Joe Fluker, who had at least four.
The Wildcats led for most of the game, but they briefly trailed by as much as three points late in the second quarter.
“I was proud of our guys for adjusting to adversity,” Green said.
The Saturday night starting lineup—Booker, Caldwell, Levert Smith, Marcus Smith, and Thomas—was a first, Green said.
The Wildcats had prepared for a zone defense, which Catholic doesn’t play a lot, and executed against it well in the first quarter but became stagnant in the second, Green said.
In the second half, though, Oak Ridge executed well and got the game to its tempo and started making baskets, Green said. Fatigue might have played a factor in the Wildcats’ win, he said.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were able to run the clock, although they also had several turnovers.
One key to the Oak Ridge win, Green said, was holding Catholic senior guard Jack Sompayrac to three points. Sompayrac, who is also the Catholic quarterback and picked up four fouls Saturday, is a really good basketball player and averages about 17-18 points per game, Green said.
Other top scorers for Catholic were freshman guard Sam Sompayrac with 11 points, junior guard Ryan MacDonald with six, and junior guard Walt Pickering with five.
Oak Ridge shot 25-of-51 overall and 21-of-37 from two-point range, while Catholic was 16-of-55 and 13-of-37 from two-point range, according to preliminary statistics by Mark Haste.
Regarding the semifinal game on Tuesday, Bearden has not lost to a Tennessee team this year, according to records kept by CoachT.com. The Bulldogs’ one loss, a three-point 58-55 loss, was to Columbus, Mississippi, at the Arby’s Classic Semifinal in Bristol on Friday, December 29.
Bearden was a young, talented team last year, when the Bulldogs lost 86-73 to the tall, experienced, senior-led Wildcats in the Region 2-AAA championship at Wildcat Arena. Bearden started four sophomores in that game, while Oak Ridge started four seniors.
Bearden’s talented sophomores from last year are back again as juniors this year. Among them are Drew Pember, listed as 6-foot-6 as a sophomore last year, and Trent Stephney and Ques Glover, the two players who led the Bulldogs in scoring against the Wildcats as sophomores last year.
Green said Glover is one of the top guards in the state, Stephney is a good transition player, and Pember has length. The Wildcats have to be prepared for a talented team, Green said. It’s one of the reasons they’ve played the schedule they have this year, to prepare for games like this.
Keys to winning this time of year are guard play and defending and rebounding, Green said.
Bearden beat Karns, the number four team from District 3, 82-53 in another Region 2-AAA quarterfinal on Saturday.
In the other two quarterfinals, Powell beat William Blount, the number four team from District 4, 44-36, and Maryville defeated Anderson County, the number three team from District 3, 64-50.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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