The Sports Informant

Your inside source for West Coast sports. Yeah, it rhymes.

Oak Ridge girls repeat as section champs with Division I crown

By Scott Levin
Sports Informant Contributing Writer

Oak Ridge proved it wasn’t a one-girl show in the first half. In the second half, Sara James let the others take a rest.

James, the McDonald’s All-American nominee who has committed to Stanford, scored all 15 of her points in the second half, as the No. 1 Trojans of Oak Ridge defeated the No. 3 Kennedy Cougars, 64-50, in the Division I Girls Championship. It was the Trojans’ second straight section title. Last year, they won the Division II crown.

James was a non-factor through the first half. The senior shooting guard missed all five of her shots, had three turnovers and picked up two fouls before the half. Despite her struggles, Oak Ridge found itself leading, 26-21, thanks largely to the play of Caitlin Welsch, who scored 15 first-half points.

Oak Ridge's Caitlin Welsch goes up for two in the section title game. (Photo courtesy Tom Paniagua)

“I knew I was scoreless,” James said. “But I wasn’t too upset about it. I’m fine being scoreless if we win.”

In the second half, James displayed the shooting proficiency that has her ranked among the nation’s top prep performers. Listed at No. 18 on ESPN Rise’s ranking of the top girl players in the country, James went right to work in the third quarter to make up for a quiet start.

She scored on a driving runner, a pair of three-pointers, a leaning bank shot and a midrange swish, as Oak Ridge extended its lead to 13 heading into the final quarter.

James’ drought was not a concern for Oak Ridge coach Stephen White, who was especially complimentary of Welsch’s performance. Welsch called it the best playoff game she’s ever played. White was impressed with his team’s ball movement, a point of emphasis after a poor showing in Wednesday’s playoff game against Franklin.

“We had balanced scoring,” White said. “It was about using everybody else. Caitlin (Welsch) knocked down some huge shots. I was very proud of the team effort.”

James said the team now sets its sights on a bigger goal, bringing home a state title.

“We’re all best friends, the whole team,” she said. “It’s a team goal, not an individual goal. We’re not stopping here.”

Oak Ridge vs. Kennedy slideshow

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