High school basketball notes: Oak Ridge girls get second shot at Heritage

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013 - 5:17 pm

Oak Ridge's girls basketball team has played 31 games this season, with only two disappointing performances.

One was their 65-42 loss to Kennedy in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals Feb. 28, and the other was to Heritage of Brentwood 55-36 Jan. 26 in the Campolindo Shootout in Moraga.

While Oak Ridge won't get another shot at Kennedy in the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs – Berkeley eliminated the Cougars on Wednesday – the 10th-seeded Trojans play No. 3 Heritage tonight in Brentwood.

The Trojans (27-4) – thanks to impressive road wins over No. 7 Amador Valley of Pleasanton 57-48 Wednesday and No. 2 Wilcox of Santa Clara 52-40 Saturday – get a shot at avenging their one regular-season "hiccup," as coach Steve White calls it, against the Patriots (26-5), with the winner advancing to Saturday's D-I championship game at Sleep Train Arena.

"It was an early-afternoon game as part of a showcase, and, no excuses, we just did not play well," White said of the loss to Heritage.

Junior guard Ali Bettencourt scored 18 points – 15 in the second half – against Amador Valley, then had 27, including seven threes, against Wilcox to help the Trojans close in on their third NorCal title appearance in five seasons.

With St. Mary's of Stockton in the Open Division, the D-I field has become even more intriguing after several upsets.

In addition to Oak Ridge beating Wilcox, No. 8 Gunn of Palo Alto knocked off top-seeded Monte Vista of Danville, and perennial NorCal finalist and No. 12 Berkeley beat No. 4 McClymonds of Oakland.

Quiet contributor – With standout seniors Ashlee Jones and Briana Barnes and sophomores Jordyn Bell and Erika Bean averaging double-figure scoring for No. 2 Bradshaw Christian, the Pride's fifth starter, senior Terisha Simmons, flies quietly under the radar.

"She's our hidden gem," Bradshaw Christian coach Mike Ruble said of the 5-foot-4 forward and four-year varsity player. "She always guards much bigger players, but she's up to the challenge because she's super strong and super quick."

But Simmons' name doesn't always show in the box score, and it's doubtful she'll score a lot tonight when the Pride hosts No. 3 Piedmont in a D-IV NorCal semifinal.

Simmons' performance in the Pride's 50-40 D-IV Sac-Joaquin Section championship win over Bear River on March 2 was typical. She played all 32 minutes, had no points and took one shot. But she also had only one turnover, grabbed six rebounds and helped her team hold the Bruins to 30 percent shooting.

Panthers' kudos – Florin seniors Deja Conger and Daijah Joe-Smith, both four-year varsity players, credit coach Larry Price for building the No. 4-seeded Panthers into an area power, one that will play at top-seeded St. Francis of Mountain View tonight in a D-II semifinal.

"He's put his time and heart into this program," said Joe-Smith after Florin beat No. 5 Montgomery of Santa Rosa 41-37 on Saturday. "So we're trying to repay him by winning."

Added Conger: "Each year, we've gotten better because of our coach."

But Price said Conger and Joe-Smith deserve the pats on the back for turning around a program that had lost 42 consecutive games before their arrival.

"Words could not express what they have meant to me," Price said. "They have been like my daughters. I've watched them grow up. … Without them, there's no turnaround."

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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