MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- The Oak Ridge boys basketball team had two things going for it Tuesday night in its game against Delta: relentless defensive pressure and Ryan Below.
Delta could handle neither.
The result was an easy 72-35 victory for Oak Ridge in the first round of the Woodland Tournament.
The Blue Jays' defensive pressure -- in the form of a stifling 1-2-2 full-court press and aggressive 2-3 zone under the basket -- contributed to Oak Ridge's 15-0 run to open the game. By the time it was over, Below, a junior center, had a game-high 19 points, his nine baskets all coming from shots in the paint.
"He's a super athlete down low," Oak Ridge coach Adam Stoneking said. "This is his third year as a varsity player, and he understands how to play down low. He understands when to jump and when not to jump. He really understands his role down there."
Below made his presence known in a hurry. He missed his first shot, a drive down the lane, but got the rebound and put it in for the game's first points. He added three layups -- one culminating a pretty baseline drive -- and, for emphasis, came up with a steal at half-court and drove for a slam dunk that made the score 23-2 late in the first quarter.
"In the first half we got the kinks worked out," Below said. "It all came together in the second half."
Delta coach Jimmy Johnson knew his team would have its hands full with Below.
"We had a game plan to try to take [Below's height] away on the defensive end," Johnson said. "We just don't have anyone that size to take him away on the offensive end."
Below was far from a one-man team for Oak Ridge as three other Bluejays scored in double figures. Senior guard Hunter Seyer had 18 points -- including four 3-pointers -- and senior forward Lance Rohde added 17 points, including four putbacks on offensive rebounds. Junior guard Kelby Brown chipped in 12 points.
"We knew we had a strong upper-hand inside," Seyer said. "We knew if [Below] could get open inside in the beginning it would open up some space for threes. It did, and we just knocked 'em down."
Johnson lamented the fact his squad dug itself such a deep hole early. After trailing by 20 or more points for most of the first half, the Bobcats pulled within 51-27 on Tanner Schabbing's 3-pointer at the 2:30 mark of the third quarter, but that was as close as Delta would get.
"We just didn't do what we practiced," Johnson said, alluding to how his team handled Oak Ridge's pressure in the first half. "We're very familiar with each other. We play each other three times a season ... so we're real familiar with what they do. It was just a matter of execution."
Stoneking was pleased with his team's effort in its season opener, especially the defensive intensity.
"Definitely," he said. "We always want to set the tone defensively right from the start. We want to dictate the pace with our zone and our press."
It worked to near-perfection in the first quarter when the Bluejays limited Delta to two field goals in 11 attempts while creating nine turnovers, including four steals. Oak Ridge added three more steals in the second period in opening a 38-18 halftime lead.
In the opening half, the Bluejays shot 16 of 33 from the field while limiting the Bobcats to just 7 of 23.
Schabbing led Delta (0-2) with 17 points before fouling out late in the game.
Oak Ridge (1-0) advances to face Scott City, a 96-40 winner over Meadow Heights on Monday, in Thursday's semifinals at 8 p.m.
DELTA (35) -- Trevor Glaus 2, Tanner Schabbing 17, Alex Lashley 6, Dwight Nance 6, Austin White 4. FG: 14. FT: 2-4. F: 14. (3-pointers: Schabbing 3. Fouled out: Schabbing.)
OAK RIDGE (72) -- Andrew Puchbauer 3, Hunter Sayer 18, Kelby Brown 12, Ryan Below 19, Jacob Hengl 3, Lance Rohde 17. FG: 29. FT: 7-17. F: 12. (3-pointers: H. Sayer 4, Brown 2, Hengl 1. Fouled out: none.)