Fans at Oak Ridge High Friday night saw four basketball teams play in two competitive, entertaining games well worth the price of admission.
In the opening varsity game, Oak Ridge’s girls upset Folsom, 40-30, avenging an earlier loss to the Bulldogs with a win that could help the Trojans move up a couple spots in the playoff seeding. In the nightcap, the Trojans took Folsom to the final buzzer, as Joe Souliman missed a desperation three that would have sent the game into overtime. Folsom prevailed 57-54 to secure a perfect 10-0 record in the Sierra Foothill League and what they hope will be a No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. The playoff brackets will be released tomorrow.
It’s been somewhat of an up-and-down season for the Trojans, but Friday’s win over Folsom (8-2 in league, 21-6 overall) meant a lot to the team and should give them a big boost heading into the playoffs.
The Trojans (7-3, 18-8) did it with defense, as they held the Bulldogs to only 30 points. Folsom only made three baskets in the second half and one in the fourth quarter.
“I always point out the breakdowns as a coach, but we played really solid defense for 32 minutes,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “It’s always good to win your last game heading into the playoffs. This was a lot like a playoff game. Folsom’s a very good team; and those are the types of teams you have to beat in the playoffs. I’m super proud of the girls. They put forth an amazing effort.”
Folsom led at halftime 21-19 and that was its biggest lead of the game. Teagan Brown tied the game at 23 with a drive to the basket with 5:28 to play in the third quarter, and Sophie Olson’s three-pointer with 2:46 to play in the quarter put Oak Ridge in front for good. The Trojans led by three, 28-25, heading into the fourth quarter. Brown knocked down a three-pointer for the first points of the quarter. Folsom’s Parker Gordon scored on a drive to the basket with 6:03 to play to cut the lead to four points, 31-27, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t get any closer, as Oak Ridge outscored them 9-3 the rest of the game.
It’s been a rough week for Folsom, who when the week began were 8-0 and had already claimed the Sierra Foothill League title. On Wednesday, the Bulldogs lost at Del Oro, 48-32, and then struggled again offensively tonight in their second-straight loss.
“We scored 32 points against Del Oro and 30 tonight,” Folsom coach Lynn Wolking said. “There’s been a lid on the rim. Everything looks better when the ball is going through the hoop. Our effort was good and solid, and we’re going to win a lot of games only giving up 40 points, but our timing and execution on offense is off. Oak Ridge is a very good defensive team, so give them credit. We’re going to drop in the seedings for sure, but the question is how much? We’ll be fine moving forward; we just need to see our shots go through the hoop.”
Teagan Brown scored 19 points to lead the Trojans, as the Bulldogs couldn’t keep her from getting to the rim. Erica Ingram added nine. Folsom’s top scorer was Beth Pettingill with seven points. Charity Gallegos scored six, while Katie Harris and Devry Millett finished with five.
The first meeting between Folsom and Oak Ridge was decided by two points, so it only stood to reason that the second meeting would be another close one.
Folsom (10-0 in league, 23-5 overall) led by nine early in the second quarter, but the Trojans (4-6, 17-11) outscored the Bulldogs 20-5 in the quarter to take a seven-point lead at halftime, 34-27. The Bulldogs trailed the entire third quarter, but cut the deficit to three, 42-39, with eight minutes to play.
Folsom, the Sierra Foothill League champs, played better in the game’s closing moments and that was the difference. The Bulldogs took their first lead since midway through the second quarter on a steal and layup from Tiler Fears, which put Folsom in front 47-46 with 5:06 to play. The teams exchanged leads with back-to-back threes by Oak Ridge’s Kyle Cochran followed by one by Folsom’s Jerrald Cummings. A steal by DeShawn Lynch, which led to a layup by Cummings, put Folsom up 52-49 with 3:36 to play.
A bucket following an offensive rebound by Drake Middleton cut the lead to one and a pair of free throws from Jacob Brown with 1:13 to play put Oak Ridge in front 53-52. Lynch then converted a three-point play with a bucket and a free throw to put Folsom in front for good, 55-53, with 54.6 seconds to play.
Brown made one-of-two free throws with 17.2 seconds remaining, but at the other end, Fears made both of his attempts with 7.9 seconds left to give Folsom a three-point edge, 57-54. Oak Ridge got off a final shot, but Souliman’s three was off the mark.
“The difference in the game is that Folsom just turns it up a notch in the fourth quarter and gets more physical and our guys haven’t learned that they have to do the same thing,” Oak Ridge coach Rich Sondhi said. “We played pretty good defense, and kept the score low, but it was another tight game and Folsom made the plays at the end.”
Sondhi was proud of his team, saying they’re the only team in the league to give Folsom a close game. Middleton led the Trojans with 17 points, while Brown scored 11, and Cochran finished with eight. Ethan Nisbet only scored two points, but drew five charging calls on the Bulldogs, as he increased his season total to an Oak Ridge school record of 54 charges taken.
“Ethan’s unreal,” Sondhi said. “To average almost two charges per game is impressive, and it really makes a difference for us and he’s willing to take them.”
For the Bulldogs, it was an impressive effort to comeback from eight down early in the third quarter, and then to pull out the win in the end.
“Everyone did their part, especially in the fourth quarter,” Folsom coach Mike Wall said. “Jerrald, DeShawn, Tiler … everyone stepped up and were clutch in the fourth quarter. I’m happy to take the win.”
Lynch scored 14 points to lead the team. Tiler Fears finished with 11, including knocking down all six free throws in the fourth quarter. Jalen Scott scored 10 points, and Cummings finished with eight.