The second game in the event, there were sooo many subplots to this contest. The teams are in the same district and could meet two more times before it all said and done. Olympia senior guard Edgerrin James played travel ball for the Florida Rebels, which is run by Oak Ridge Head Coach Steve Reece. Both teams won their “side” of the Metro Conference Tournament that was held last week; Oak Ridge on the East Side and Olympia on the West Side. So this game was for the de facto Metro Championship. The Metro is the athletic governing body for Orange County schools, just like the GMAC in Miami-Dade or BCAA down in Fort Lauderdale.
A raucous home crowd got the Pioneers of Oak Ridge off to a good start. A transition dunk by Tyler Johnson and a bit later a three from Cam Simpson got the crowd fired up even more. At that point, James got to work for Olympia and his teammates followed suit. With four minutes gone in the period, Oak Ridge held a two-point 12-10 lead. At that point, the Titans of Olympia flexed and outscored Oak Ridge 14-6 to end the quarter up 24-18. James had twelve of those 24, a sign of things to come.
Olympia continued its surge in the early stages of the second period. The Titans’ lead swelled to fifteen, 38-23, and Oak Ridge called a time out at the 4:15 mark. Whatever was said in the huddle worked as Jalen Reece and Jordan Tillery got into the lane for some scores and Johnson worked the offensive glass. When the half-time horn sounded, Oak Ridge had cut the margin to ten, 48-38.
In the third quarter, the Pioneers extended their defense and it yielded results. If Olympia broke through the first wave of pressure, Oak Ridge was able to chase down the ball-handler and several times poked the ball away into the hands of a Pioneer, quickly turning from defense to offense. With 3:26 left in the quarter, Olympia’s lead was only seven, 57-50. Over the next three minutes, Oak Ridge would go on a 9-2 run and tie the score at 59-59. Olympia was able to get the last bucket of the quarter to lead by two, 61-59, going into the final eight minutes.
Doubtful anybody heard it, but we are guessing that James of Olympia muttered “I’m done with this s##t” coming out of the huddle to start the fourth. He dropped a quartet of off-the-dribble jumpers (three of them threes) in the face of Oak Ridge defenders to grow the Titan lead. At the four-minute mark, Olympia looked back in control up eleven, 78-67. That was actually far from the case, as Oak Ridge started finding the range from beyond the arc. A pair of Simpson threes were part of run that saw Oak Ridge get to within six, 84-78, with 1:11 to play. Time was now of the essence for the Pioneers and they had a few fouls to give before putting Olympia in the bonus. They did so quickly. Olympia was a bit shaky from the charity stripe and Oak Ridge used it to their advantage. With 37 seconds remaining and Olympia up 87-81, Oak Ridge raced down and got another three from Simpson to draw within one possession, 87-84, with 25 seconds remaining. It looked like Oak Ridge might make it all the way back but James hit two free throws for Olympia, Oak Ridge missed its attempts from beyond the arc, and Olympia would win “round one” by the score of 92-84.
There are some “disagreements” with how many points James scored in the contest. Both scorebooks had him with 45 points while the Olympia bench and us had him with 47 points. Either way, it is a new career high, as he went for 40 points just last week against West Orange in the Metro Tournament. Pretty impressive do that on a big stage in front of his future college head coach, Wes Miller of Cincinnati, who was in attendance. He got help from 6’1 sophomore Sean Owens with 14 points, 6’3 junior Kaiden White had 12 and 6’3 junior Cam Miles with 10 points.
For Oak Ridge, Johnson, a 6’5 junior, led the way with 20 points. Both Tillery and Simpson, 6’6 juniors, finished with 19 points each, and Reece, a 5’11 sophomore, added 14 points.
There are two more chances for Oak Ridge and Olympia to meet again. The first would be in the district tournament and the second would be in the regional round off the playoffs. Windermere, also in the district, as well as the likes of Lake Worth, Wellington, and/or Port St. Lucie Centennial will have a say in if any rematches take place.