Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Kim Schmelz of Pleasant Grove, left, and Oak Ridge’s Isamar Conde fight for possession. Schmelz scored 11 points in the semifinal.

High school girls basketball: Oak Ridge tops Pleasant Grove in D-I semifinal

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 4, 2014 - 11:02 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014 - 12:12 am

Say hello to as fundamentally sound a girls basketball team as you’ll find in the region: The Oak Ridge Trojans.

They’re a textbook example of the bounce pass, the back-door cut, the give-and-go, setting screens – and winning. But it’s not a team void of creativity and fun, as displayed again, including Tuesday night’s 59-45 triumph over rival Pleasant Grove in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal at Pacific.

Ali Bettencourt scored nine of her 13 points in the first quarter on jumpers, baseline moves and the break, and Jenn Hoffman set the pace in the third quarter. She scored six quick points and finished with a game-high 17 as the Trojans overwhelmed the Eagles, fresh off an upset of once-beaten Napa in a quarterfinal.

Oak Ridge is 3-0 against Pleasant Grove this season, including Delta River League play, and now bounds into the D-I section finals for the third time since 2010, seeking its second such title.

“The coaches tell us, ‘Don’t be robots,’ ” said Bettencourt, a 5-foot-10 guard headed to San Jose State on scholarship. “It’s always been a tradition at Oak Ridge to play like this. We know what we’re getting into and what’s expected: playing hard and playing together. You’ve got to be ready to buy in, and that’s the biggest thing. We’ve all bought in.”

Mandating the buy-in motto over the years has been veteran coach Steve White. He’s long been known for his superbly conditioned, deep and sound teams that fully expect to extend the season into mid- to late March as the team goal. What Oak Ridge (26-4) may lack in sheer freakish athletic ability that might prompt a flood of college recruiters to the El Dorado Hills campus it more than makes up with team play, depth and results. But no robots here. This is very much a giddy group after games with players ecstatic to return to Sleep Train Arena for Saturday’s final.

“The offense we run is not designed for us to be robots,” White said. “They can freelance, have movement and improvise.”

Hoffman, a fourth-year varsity floor leader, sets the tempo as the point guard who can drive, distribute or shoot. She made 7 of 13 shots and provided her usual pesky defense. What makes Oak Ridge especially dangerous is the support crew around Bettencourt and Hoffman.

Nine Trojans scored, including Michelle Barkley, who had six points to go with 10 rebounds. Shelby Peters had five points, five assists and eight rebounds and Grace Derksen had four points and three assists.

“We’ve worked hard since Day One,” White said. “They put in the time. We have good leaders. As long as we play as a team, like this, we can play with anyone. Isn’t this what basketball is all about? The players who do the little things. We have a lot of that.”

Brittany Nguyen scored 16 points and Kim Schmelz 11 for Pleasant Grove (21-9), which advances to the NorCal D-I tournament that starts next week, though as a lower-seeded road team.

Florin 45, Vanden 38 at Cosumnes River College – Jikara Sellers made two three-pointers to put the fourth-seeded Panthers (21-9) ahead to stay with three minutes to play to stun the top-seeded Vikings (23-6) in a D-III semifinal. Sellers had eight points, Desiree’ Dedrick 10, Kynnidi Ricardo 10 and Dalayna Sampton nine with 12 rebounds for Florin, which plays for the title Friday night at Sleep Train. The Panthers seek their first title, having reached the D-I final in 1996 and ’97 and the D-II final last season. Vanden, playing without two key injured starters, had its 11-game winning streak snapped.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his “Extra Point” every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson

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