Oak Ridge advances to Nor-Cal finals with 43-34 win over Folsom

By: Matt Long
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For Oak Ridge, the dream is still alive, while for Folsom, it’s shattered.

With Oak Ridge’s 43-34 victory Tuesday, the Trojans advance to Saturday’s Nor-Cal Division I championship game against McClatchy. For the Bulldogs, the best season in school history has come to an end.

“It feels amazing to reach the Nor-Cal finals,” said junior center Shayley Harris, who had a big basket, rebound and assist in the closing minutes. “We’ve worked for this all year and it’s been completely rewarding. We were patient and confident tonight and won it by everyone stepping up and making good plays.”

In a battle between two of the best teams in Northern California, the Trojans (23-10) simply shot the ball better than the Bulldogs. Oak Ridge led nearly the entire game, never trailing after taking the lead for good at 4-3 just over three minutes into the game. The Trojans, despite turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter to Folsom’s four, made five baskets, including two three-pointers from Marie Olson, while Folsom’s only bucket was a transition layup from Hanna Beckman. After one quarter, Folsom trailed 15-3 and while outscoring the Trojans 31-28 the rest of the game, it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs only made 10 shots from the field in the game, while Oak Ridge made 15, seven from Olson, who led all scorers with 17 points.

“You’ve got to be able to shoot the ball,” Folsom coach Lynn Wolking said after the game. “We couldn’t make a layup. When we cut the lead to three in the fourth quarter, I just thought if we could make a shot to tie it up or take the lead, we would have won it. We just needed someone to make a shot and lift us up.”

Olson was big early for the Trojans, hitting a pair of threes in the first quarter and scoring eight points. Folsom outscored the Trojans 21-17 in the second and third quarters, as the Bulldogs were able to stay in the game despite their poor shooting. Oak Ridge’s 22 turnovers in the game helped keep the Bulldogs alive, while Folsom committed only nine.

Trailing 32-24 heading into the fourth quarter, Folsom scored six of the first seven points in the first 4:07 of the quarter to cut the lead to three, 33-30. Despite the 6-1 run, poor shooting still hurt the Bulldogs. Forbes and Gordon started the quarter with baskets, and Gordon’s jumper with 6:45 to play was Folsom’s last basket of the game. The team’s final six points came from the foul line.

Having watched their lead slip to three points, the Trojans came through in crunch time. Harris’ basket inside put the team up by five, and the 6-5 junior grabbed a defensive rebound at the other end of the floor to get the ball back for the team. At the other end of the court, Olson made a nice pass down low to Brittany Belanger for another basket. Following another Folsom miss, Harris earned an assist after she made a nice pass inside to Olson, whose bucket safely but the Trojans in front 39-30 with 1:45 to play.

Folsom got as close as six points to the lead after three free throws from Forbes, but Lexi Perry countered with four of her own to ice the game.

“We really wanted it and that was key tonight,” Belanger said. “We just wanted to keep playing and it showed. It feels great.”

Said Olson, “We’re super stoked. We gave everything we had.”

Following Olson’s 17 points, Harris finished with seven points, while Perry and Belanger finished with six. Jessie Armstrong led the Bulldogs with 12 points, while Forbes scored 11 and Beckman added seven.

Folsom’s remarkable season ended with a 27-5 record.

“I told them that I loved them,” said Wolking when asked what he said to his team after the loss. “There was so much connectivity in their relationships with one another and the work ethic was so good; it’s what you want in a team. It was a pure joy. To get to the final four of Northern California is pretty darn good.”