Coach Steve Reece and the Pioneers of Oak Ridge don’t duck anybody and are looking forward to this sternest of challenges. Hopefully, Jamier Jones, a 6’6 junior, will be able to play in this game after missing the team’s opening round contest with an illness (he did not). Oak Ridge likes to play up-tempo so it will be interesting to see if they can run with an Eagles team that can explode on opponents with long, offensive spurts.
The host Eagles started off the game with a three-point play by 6’9 senior and Georgia signee Asa Newell. Oak Ridge countered with a free throw from 6’5 senior Jordan Tillery, a Georgia Southern signee. Curtis Givens of Montverde made the score 6-1 after the LSU signee dropped in a three. A mid-range jumper from Oak Ridge’s Virgina Tech signee 6’5 Tyler Johnson started an 8-0 Pioneers run which saw Cam Simpson, a 6’6 UCF signed drop in a pair of threes to give them a 9-6 lead. A drive from Duke recruit Cooper Flagg and a transition basket by future Baylor guard Robert Wright gave the lead back to Montverde. Oak Ridge countered with a 7-2 run, highlighted by a three from 6’8 junior Amari Davis gave them a 16-12 lead with 1:26 to play in the first period. Montverde responded quickly with a putback dunk from 6’9 senior Derik Queen and a three from Wright just before the buzzer to make the score 17-16 in favor of Monteverde after one period of play.
The teams went back and forth in the early portion of the second quarter. Oak Ridge tied the game at 20-20 after a driving score from Tillery. Montverde then broke off a 9-0 run, six of those coming from Queen. Oak Ridge called a timeout down 29-20 with 3:32 remaining in the half. Montverde built its lead to ten, 35-25, with just under two minutes to play but a drive and score by Johnson and a three in transition from Simpson cut that lead in half. Montverde wasn’t done, scoring five points before the horn, the last two coming on a putback jam by Flagg to give Monteverde a 40-30 lead at the half.
Montverde scored to open up the third quarter but a three from Tillery and a mid-rang jumper from Johnson brought Oak Ridge to within 42-35. At that point, Montverde ripped off an 11-3 run, five of those coming from Flagg. With just over five minutes to play in the quarter, the Eagles led 53-38 and Oak Ridge took a time out. Out of that break, Oak Ridge got to within ten after a three from Simpson and a transition basket from 6’1 junior Jalen Reece. That didn’t matter to Montverde as they ran off eight unanswered, six of those coming from Queen. Johnson hit a three for Oak Ridge to stop the bleeding, but only momentarily. Both Wright and Queen scored for the Eagles to push the margin to nineteen at 65-46. Montverde ultimately led by twenty going into the fourth, 69-49.
The outcome was never in doubt by this point. Still, neither let up. However, for every run Oak Ridge made to shave down the deficit, Montverde responded with one to grow the lead. Even when the Eagles went to their bench, the margin grew. The host Eagles head into the title game against Prolific Prep after winning big, 97-66.
Montverde got a pair of double-doubles from Flagg (22 points, 14 rebounds, as well as 6 blocks) and Queen (23 points and 12 rebounds). Newell finished with 12 points, Wright had 11 points and 9 assists while Givens added 10 points.
Oak Ridge placed four players in double-figures as Johnson led the way with 19 points, Tillery added 15 points, Reece tallied 14 points and Simpson had 12 points.