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Oak Ridge basketball team puts away St. Vincent with strong finish
OAK RIDGE, Mo. -- Defend Oak Ridge's outside shooters: check.
Limit the Blue Jays' inside game: check.
Slow Oak Ridge's transition game: hmm ...
St. Vincent's checklist read like a blueprint for defeating the Blue Jays, but the visiting Indians failed in their final task, and Oak Ridge -- specifically Ryan Below -- made them pay.
Below erupted for 12 fourth-quarter points as the Blue Jays pulled away for a 56-36 boys basketball victory Monday night.
With Oak Ridge's primary offensive options effectively bottled up by St. Vincent's swarming defense, the Blue Jays relied on their full-court press to create turnovers and fuel a running game that eventually wore down the feisty Indians.
"I thought our second-line guys in the press did a good job in the second half," Oak Ridge coach Adam Stoneking said as his squad improved to 12-4. "We were able to force some passes to where Ryan could step around and create some steals that led to some easy baskets for us."
Below finished with a game-high 26 points, but it was his defense -- rebounding and defending on the press -- that enabled the Blue Jays to pull away in the final period. Oak Ridge led 35-24 entering the fourth quarter, which opened with Below's steal and subsequent three-point play pushing the lead to 38-24. It was the first of three consecutive steals by the Blue Jays that effectively kept the Indians (8-5) at bay.
"In the second half we got a lot of transition baskets," Below, who finished with five steals, explained. "I guess you can call that playing aggressively. I just tried to get a steal and go for the layup and get our transition game going."
Oak Ridge needed its running game as St. Vincent proved equal to the task of limiting the outside shooting of Hunter Seyer (12 points). And when the Blue Jays did get the ball inside to either Below or senior Corvin Schoen (nine points), the Indians collapsed, preventing their patented penetration or easy followups.
"Bruce's teams always play great defense," Stoneking said with a nod to St. Vincent coach Bruce Valleroy. "If you have an inside game, they're going to shut it down. We had to make our offense work through our press because we were not going to get anything easy in the halfcourt, and that's how it worked out."
St. Vincent failed to capitalize on a great third-quarter opportunity to chip away at Oak Ridge's lead. Trailing 30-19, the Indians held Oak Ridge to one free throw in eight trips down the court, but managed just two baskets -- one a 3-pointer by Trent Elder -- during the same span. Instead, St. Vincent missed eight shots and turned the ball over five times.
"When we play good defense for six minutes, offensively you've got to capitalize on that," Valleroy said. "When you score [five] points in six minutes, that's a drought, too."
And when Below took over in the final period, St. Vincent couldn't answer.
"We've had trouble with him the last couple of years," Valleroy said. "He's a great player."
Seyer, who had three 3-pointers but none in the second half, appreciated how Below turned the tide.
"Ryan's an incredible player on defense," Seyer said. "Rebounding, on blocks, he's always there for help defense. And when Ryan's able to get some steals, it's just momentum for our team and helps us get out on some fast breaks."
Trenton Gremaud led St. Vincent with 12 points, while Elder added 10.
ST. VINCENT (36) -- Trent Elder 10, Nathan Carroll 2, Gabe Galati 3, Dylan Richardet 2, Trenton Gremaud 12, Kevin Mattingly 5, Dylan Hellman 2. FG: 15. FT: 4-7. F: 20. (3-pointers: Elder 2. Fouled out: none.)
OAK RIDGE (56) -- Hunter Seyer 12, Cody Hahs 2, Kelby Brown 7, Ryan Below 26, Corvin Schoen 9. FG: 19. FT: 14-26. F: 13. (3-pointers: Seyer 3, Brown 1. Fouled out: none.
JV: St. Vincent won 43-32.