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The Weekly Snitch: Underdog Oak Ridge wins state championship

By Patrick Ibarra
Editor

A team again underestimated Oak Ridge. Now the Trojans are state champions.

The Oak Ridge High School girls basketball team brought home the California state championship trophy after its win Saturday night over Long Beach Poly, 55-42, sealing the legacy not only of star player and senior Sara James, but of a school draped in glory in nearly every sport it offers.

Just like its boys team did in 2005, the Oak Ridge girls went into a state championship basketball game an underdog, against a nationally-ranked foe, and returned champions. Do people keep forgetting what this school can do?

It’s consistently a contender in every sport, whether on the local league or section level, and occasionally a star comes along like James, or the NBA’s Ryan Anderson, catapulting the already great teams to a level unmatched by any team in California.

So why, with a state championship on the line, would any team take Oak Ridge lightly? Long Beach Poly now has a year to figure that out.

Oak Ridge celebrates after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section title. (Photo courtesy Greg Ashman)

With all the scouting tapes on Oak Ridge, Long Beach Poly still let the All-American James go for 20 points in the first half. While they held her to just six points in the second half, forcing other Trojans to step up to secure the win, why wasn’t that the game plan all along?

When I spoke to Oak Ridge coach Steve White and to James on Friday, both expected that from the get-go

“I’ve expected it,” James said of the attention of the defense on her. “We don’t put stats or anything on MaxPreps.com, so they don’t hear how good everyone else is. The first quarter they will deny me a lot, and once they see everyone else is scoring and just as good, they’ll play off a bit.”

No one gave Long Beach Poly that memo. The Jackrabbits couldn’t contain James in the first half as she scored several different ways, sometimes with ease.

What White and James expected to be the surprise in the first half for Long Beach Poly ended up being the key to victory in the second half. Forcing James to create eight turnovers in the game, while holding her to only six second-half points, the Jackrabbits watched other Trojans come to life with the game on the line.

Dakota McLarnen scored 14 points, making four 3-pointers, to help lift Oak Ridge to what has been dubbed “the greatest upset in CIF state girls basketball championships history.”

Oak Ridge became the first large-school team in the Sac-Joaquin Section to win the CIF Division I state basketball title. The Oak Ridge boys in 2005 won the Division II crown.

It was a masterful season by the 32-3 Trojans, one that should be etched in the minds of many for years to come, and will be etched into the hardwood floor in the Oak Ridge gym as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, somewhere, somehow, some way, a team facing the Trojans will forget again. That team better hope it’s not in a game for the state championship.

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