Joe Watanabe '21 | The Plank
In a thrilling game between two closely-matched teams, the Oak Ridge High School Trojans eliminated the Jesuit High School Marauders in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs by a close margin of 63-59.
The No. 4 seed Marauders got a massive 91-63 win over Turlock High School in the first round. However, two days later, the dream of a Sac-Joaquin Section crown came to an end in front of a enthusiastic but disappointed home crowd.
The game was evenly matched, with the lead changing almost every possession and the momentum constantly swinging back and forth.
The Trojans started off on fire, knocking down a couple of threes and forcing the Marauders to use a timeout.
The Marauders responded with threes from sophomore guards Chris Holley ’21, Brandon Rutherford ’21, and three star recruit Isa Silva ’21. Jesuit also got several buckets from Silva driving into the lane and dishing to center Sam Daly ’19.
Jesuit continued to play unselfishly, and they had a 21-17 lead to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Marauders’ lack of size inside became apparent as Oak Ridge was securing almost every rebound. Jesuit’s struggle to crash the boards would haunt them the rest of the game as Oak Ridge’s senior center Drake Middleton, who stands 6’6”, consistently grabbed rebounds over Jesuit’s 6’4” center Daly.
The issue with height was something the Marauders dealt with all season, but they didn’t face it in round one against Turlock. Like Jesuit, Turlock was also a relatively small team without a player over the height of 6’5”.
In the second half, the Marauders went cold from behind the arc, which the Trojans capitalized on as they took the lead. Despite Jesuit’s offense looking completely powerless, and with the momentum clearly on Oak Ridge’s side, the Marauders fought back as Brandon Rutherford got a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter to reduce the deficit to 50-49.
Late in the fourth, with Jesuit trailing Oak Ridge 54-53, the Marauders committed two costly turnovers in back-to-back possessions, which led to a layup and dunk from Oak Ridge junior guard Jacob Brown. Jesuit failed to recover and Oak Ridge got the 63-59 win.
After defeating the Marauders, the Trojans will take on the No. 1 seed Sheldon High School Huskies this Wednesday, Feb. 20th. The winner of the Oak Ridge-Sheldon game will advance to the championship game to face the winner of the Folsom-Modesto Christian High School game.
Despite suffering a season-ending loss, the Marauders played with serious intensity. Jesuit’s Chris Holley ’21 is proud of his team’s effort.
“We learned that even though our team played with a lot of effort and heart, the ball doesn’t always go in the basket when you want it to,” Chris said. “We know we left it all on the court. Did it hurt to take a loss on our home court? Yes, but we walked off with our heads held high.”
Head Coach Tim Kelly also appreciated the effort from his team and wants his players to use the loss as a learning experience.
“The team played really hard against Oak Ridge,” Coach Kelly said. “We did not lose because of a lack of effort. We played a really good first half, especially on offense. The biggest lesson is that we have to be tougher in terms of defense and rebounding. Those two factors are usually what determine playoff games.”
Despite falling short of a section championship, the Marauders still had an incredible season and finished with a 21-9 overall record that includes playoff games. On their journey to a potential championship, the Marauders overcame tough obstacles as teammates were shorter in size compared to almost every opponent. But in the end, what the Marauders lacked in height, they made up for with heart.
Even with the season over, Jesuit’s future is promising with only three players graduating and eight players returning next season. Unlike most varsity teams, the Marauders had five sophomores, two of whom were ranked in the top 15 in their class heading into the season.
With plenty of talent returning next year, fans should be excited for the 2019-20 season. The Marauders look to go even deeper into the playoffs and battle to bring home the coveted section championship for the first time since the 2013-14 season.