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Lady Wildcats trip Tribe on road to Murfreesboro

By TANNER COOK • Mar 3, 2019 at 1:13 AM

OAK RIDGE — The task of upsetting Oak Ridge at home was a monumental one for the Dobyns-Bennett girls basketball team.

The Lady Indians got behind early and could never dig themselves out of the hole, falling to the Lady Wildcats 59-42 in the TSSAA Class AAA sectional round Saturday night at Wildcat Arena.

Senior wing player Courtney Whitson finished with 25 points for D-B.

Miss Basketball finalist Jada Guinn matched Whitson with 25 of her own for Oak Ridge, and the Lady Wildcats’ role players stepped up to make a total of 10 3-pointers. Khamari Mitchell-Steen had 15 points and three 3s, and Bri Dunbar added 11 points for Oak Ridge.

The Lady Wildcats (33-2) moved on to next week’s TSSAA tournament following their third sectional win in four years, including their second at the Lady Indians’ expense.

“We had the best game plan, I thought. ... I shot-charted six or seven games of theirs and they were a combined 13-for-55 from 3-point range,” D-B coach Bill Francis said. “Our best chance was to make them uncomfortable and play a zone. It worked early and they were missing shots, but we didn’t get the rebound. If they got a second chance, it didn’t give us a chance to limit them to one shot and go down on offense to settle in.”

The outcome was not in much doubt about midway through the second quarter when the Lady Wildcats built a 33-19 lead, and they still held a 14-point margin at the break.

Guinn affected the game in many ways. She got her teammates involved on the offensive end and made several hustle plays on defense in the first half that led to the big advantage at intermission.

“We dug too deep a hole and against a team like that, it’s just hard,” Francis said. “We stuck with the game plan as long as we could. We thought if they started missing shots, it would get in their heads.”

The Lady Indians did pull within 11, 40-29, with 4:05 left in the third quarter, but Oak Ridge quickly answered with a 7-0 run to extinguish any hopes of a comeback. With about two minutes left in the quarter, Oak Ridge pulled the ball out to halfcourt and held it until 45 seconds remained, laughing at the Lady Indians’ zone defense that did not budge despite time slowly ticking away. The Lady Wildcats were later fouled on the possession with two seconds left and made the free throws.

D-B finished 28-8, its senior class having accomplished quite a lot in a short amount of time.

“There’s only one team with smiles on their faces at the end of the season,” Francis said. “In 40 years of girls 5-on-5 basketball, this senior class has gone to two sectional games, two regional championship game appearances, three district championship games and the first district championship in school history. That’s over half of what was accomplished in that previous 35 years.

“These girls are important to this program and they’ve helped establish a winning culture.”

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