Trojans outscore Folsom 10-1 in final three minutes to win thriller, 39-38

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Whether you were cheering for Folsom or Oak Ridge, Friday’s varsity boys’ basketball game between the two teams was about as entertaining as it gets.

The underdog Bulldogs (2-5, 11-13) had the hometown crowd on their side, but Oak Ridge (4-3, 14-10) brought a vocal student body section, as well as some excitable adults, and the crowd made the close game even more exciting.

When it was all said and done, it was the Oak Ridge student body storming the court, as the Trojans came from eight down with 3:10 to play to earn the 39-38 win.

Despite the loss, Folsom continued its strong play of the last two weeks, leading almost all of the low-scoring game, but failed to execute down the stretch at both ends of the court.

The Bulldogs led 28-25 after three quarters, but Oak Ridge scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game, 29-28, on a pair of free throws from Josh Simms.

Folsom, however, answered with three straight three-pointers, their only field goals of the quarter, to take a 37-29 lead with 3:10 to play. It was the biggest lead of the game and while there was plenty of time remaining, the Bulldogs had all the momentum.

Jordan Ford hit back-to-back threes and Zach Wolking followed with another, as Folsom gained clear control of the game.

Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott called time and told his team to calm down.

“I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember him telling us to keep our composure,” Simms said. “I thought that already, though. I believed in my team.”

It was the Trojans who looked like the team with the lead when they came out of the timeout. Grant Dean knocked down his first field goal of the night and after Edwin Olympio missed on his three-point attempt, Oak Ridge freshman point guard Matt Battaglia drained a jumper off a screen with 1:55 to play to make it four-point game, 37-33.

Folsom missed another three-pointer, this time by Gavin Smith, and Dean answered with one at the other end and the Trojans were within one.

Still in control, Folsom forced another three-pointer, this one from Ford from long range and the Trojans grabbed the rebound. Ford made amends with a steal at the other end of the floor and then Patrick Chen converted one-of-two free throws to put Folsom up 38-36 with 26 seconds to play.

Simms drove on Wolking and Wolking was called for a foul and Simms’ floater bounced around the rim three or four times before dropping, giving the Trojans an and-one situation.

Simms knocked down the free throw and Oak Ridge led 39-38 with 16.4 seconds to play.

Folsom had one last chance for the win and Smith had an open look at the three, but it was off the mark, sending Oak Ridge’s students streaming onto the floor.

“What a game,” Oak Ridge coach Steve Scott said. “It was a game of swings and in the end we finally hit some shots. That game was enough to give me more gray hair. I’m proud of the guys. In league especially, it doesn’t matter how you win them, as long as you win.”

Simms added, “We hit some huge shots with Grant and Matt coming up big. They missed a free throw then I got my bounce to go in. Then we just got a stop on defense, which is our trademark. It’s the best feeling to win a game like this. The crowd was amazing. What a great atmosphere.”

While Oak Ridge was happy, the Folsom players were down. They realized, however, that it was a fun game to play in.

“It was a good experience for us and it was fun with the fans and both schools going at it,” Ford said. “We played a lot better than we did last time and executed better.”

While the loss pretty much forces Folsom to win its remaining three games against Pleasant Grove, Ponderosa and Jesuit to make the playoffs, the win gives the Trojans some breathing room.

Despite the loss, lessons were learned on Folsom’s side.

“We played pretty well in the first half, but our offense sort of bogged down in the second half,” Folsom assistant coach Matt Mills said. “When we got up by eight, it seemed like we thought it was over and went into a prevent offense and stopped moving the ball and we didn’t play with intensity on defense. We just sort of let up and weren’t as intense. We needed to go after it and finish the win.”

Simms led Oak Ridge with 10 points, while Dean finished with nine and Tyler Hatten had seven. Ford and Wolking scored 10 apiece for the Bulldogs, while Olympio finished with nine. After holding Oak Ridge to single digits in each of the first three quarters, Folsom gave up 14 points in the final quarter, 10 in the final 2:46 of the game.