Note: This story was updated at 3:20 p.m. Feb. 28.
Oak Ridge won the District 3-AAA basketball championship with a 75-65 win over Karns on Wednesday, and the Wildcats won a Region 2 quarterfinal game with a 78-63 victory over West at home on Sunday.
The Wildcats (25-5) will play Knoxville Catholic (25-6), the District 4 runner-up, in a regional semifinal at Wildcat Arena this evening (Tuesday, February 26).
Oak Ridge senior Marcus Smith scored 41 points during the championship win over Karns on Wednesday, with 26 points in just the fourth quarter. Eleven of those points were from free throws. Smith was named most valuable player of the district tournament.
On Sunday, Wildcats senior JaVonte Thomas scored 30 points in the Region 2 quarterfinal win over West at Wildcat Arena. Smith and Thomas have been the Wildcats’ top two scorers. Like Smith, Thomas was named to the District 3 All-Tournament Team last week.
The other semifinal game at Wildcat Arena this evening will feature Bearden (26-5), the District 4 champion, and Maryville (28-3), the number three seed from District 4. Oak Ridge is the only District 3 team in the regional tournament.
Oak Ridge advanced to the District 3-AAA championship game last week by beating Clinton 88-54 in a district tournament semifinal game at Karns on Monday, February 18. Wildcats sophomore Jeremy Miller scored 22 points during that game, Thomas added 19, and Smith had 15. Evan Winchester was the only player in double digits for Clinton with 25 points.
It was the third time this season that the two teams had met, and the games have been competitive, although Oak Ridge won all three. In a January 25 game at Clinton, the Wildcats, who were playing without Smith, their leading scorer, briefly trailed the Dragons early in the third quarter before permanently pulling ahead with about three minutes left in that quarter.
Oak Ridge also beat the Beavers (13-17) three times this year, twice during the regular season and then in the district championship game. After Smith’s 41 points, Thomas was the only other Wildcat in double digits in the championship game against Karns, scoring 15 points.
Senior Mark Vance scored 21 points for Karns, senior Teahzjawon Hodge-Harper had 17, and senior Caleb Keeter added 14.
Karns led 17-15 at the end of the first quarter during that championship game, but Oak Ridge gained a 35-30 halftime lead. The Beavers regained the lead, 49-43, at the end of the third quarter, but the Wildcats outscored Karns 32-16 in the final quarter of the 75-65 win.
The Wildcats were down by nine points with about 5.5 minutes remaining before winning by 10. Smith was 10-of-13 from the free throw line in the last five minutes of the game and he made a three-point shot, a layup after a Karns turnover, and had a steal and another layup.
“We just had to come out and play hard,” Smith said. “We just had to win.”
Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green gave the Wildcats credit for not folding when they trailed by nine points in the fourth quarter.
While Oak Ridge was 12-of-15 from the free throw line in the final 4.5 minutes, Karns was 1-of-9.
On Sunday, the Wildcats led West 36-18 at halftime, but the Rebels went on a 13-2 run early in the first half with help from steals, fouls, and a dunk to pull within seven points, 38-31, just over two minutes into the third quarter. But West ran into foul trouble late in the third quarter, with two players picking up their fourth fouls with more than two minutes left, and Oak Ridge led by at least nine points the rest of the game before taking the 78-63 win.
Besides the 30 points of Thomas, other players in double digits for Oak Ridge against West were senior Herbert Booker with 15 points and sophomore Jonathan Milloway with 13. Milloway also pulled down at least six rebounds, and Wildcats senior Marcus Smith, who scored seven points, had at least five assists and four rebounds.
Senior Xavier Davis had 19 points for West, and senior Will Eggleston scored 15. Eggleston also had at least seven rebounds for the Rebels.
Catholic advanced to this evening’s regional semifinal game against Oak Ridge with a 84-56 win over Clinton in a quarterfinal game on Sunday.
Bearden advanced with a 71-38 win over Central, and Maryville defeated Karns 79-64.
The Bearden-Maryville game starts at 6 p.m. today, and the Oak Ridge-Catholic game will start at 7:30 p.m.
The winners of tonight’s two semifinal games will move on to the Region 2-AAA championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday and be guaranteed to play in a sectional game. Those games determine which teams go to the state tournament. The season will be over for the losers in tonight’s semifinals.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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