Oak Ridge will play Bearden in the Region 2-AAA boys basketball championship at Wildcat Arena this evening (Thursday, February 28).
Oak Ridge (26-5), the District 3 champion, advanced by defeating Knoxville Catholic 65-58 in a semifinal elimination game at home on Tuesday.
Bearden (27-5), the District 4 champion and defending Region 2 champion, advanced by beating Maryville 55-43 in the other semifinal game at Wildcat Arena on Tuesday.
The Wildcats were led by senior guard Marcus Smith with a game-high 23 points against Catholic. Senior guard Herbert Booker scored 16 points, and he had at least five steals. Senior guard JaVonte Thomas added 15, and he had at least five rebounds.
The Fighting Irish (25-7), the District 4 runner-up, were led by 6-foot-9 junior forward Akeem Odusipe, who scored 19 points and had at least seven rebounds and three blocks. Freshman Presley Patterson added 13 points, including on three three-point shots, and senior Ryan MacDonald and freshman Brian Edwards each scored 10 for Catholic. Edwards also had at least eight rebounds.
Oak Ridge went to the free throw line more than twice as often as Catholic, and the Wildcats shot 22-of-37 there. The Fighting Irish were 8-of-16 from the free throw line.
Catholic’s tallest player, 6-foot-11 freshman center Handje Tamba, who had six points and at least six rebounds, left the game with five fouls at 4:21 in the fourth quarter.
Oak Ridge didn’t seem intimated by Catholic’s height, sometimes shooting over the taller players, sometimes driving around them, and sometimes stealing the basketball from them. Oak Ridge’s tallest player is 6-foot-6 sophomore center Jonathan Milloway.
It was a close game, with Catholic trailing by only one point, 26-25, at halftime, and pulling within two points, 59-57, with a layup and made free throw by Odusipe with 1:12 left in the game.
But the Wildcats made four free throws in the final minute, compared to one for the Fighting Irish, and added a steal and score by Booker to widen the final score to 65-58.
Oak Ridge eliminated Catholic in a Region 2 quarterfinal game at Wildcat Arena last year.
Bearden, the other finalist in tonight’s Region 2 championship game, has a group of talented seniors, including 6-foot-10 Drew Pember, who has signed to play at the University of Tennessee, and guards Ques Glover and Trent Stephney.
Bearden eliminated Oak Ridge in a Region 2 semifinal game last year, and the Bulldogs made it to the Class AAA state tournament semifinal, where they lost to Memphis East 72-60.
Oak Ridge and Bearden will both advance after tonight’s championship game to play in a Class AAA sectional against either Dobyns-Bennett or Sevier County in Region 1. The winner of tonight’s game at Wildcat Arena, the Region 2 champion, will play at home on Monday against the Region 1 runner-up. The loser, the Region 2 runner-up, will travel to play at the Region 1 champion’s school. Sectional games determine who plays in the state tournament in Murfreesboro in March.
This will be Oak Ridge’s sixth time to play in the Region 2-AAA championship game in the past seven years, with three wins and two losses so far, according to records kept by CoachT.com.
Tonight’s game will start at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Arena at Oak Ridge High School.
Oak Ridge is the only school in Region 2 with both a girls team and boys team in regional championship games. Bearden had a girls team in a semifinal game and a boys team in the final, and Maryville had a girls team in the final and a boys team in a semifinal game.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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