Ridgers win district with big night at the line

The third time wasn’t the charm for the Clinton Dragons.

Clinton traveled to Oak Ridge for the second time this season to face off against the Wildcats.

It was the third time the two teams had met this season, with the Dragons losing both of the former encounters.

This time, though, they were determined after a stunning finish over Central that left the team in high spirits.

The game started in Clinton’s favor, with the Dragons gaining a lead on the Wildcats early in the first quarter that they more or less held onto throughout the first half. It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter that the Wildcats finally managed to retake the lead as fouls began to hobble the Dragons.

Gradually, though, the Dragons climbed their way back until, with 11 seconds left on the game clock, they sat at 71-66. After a free throw made by Oak Ridge, the ball was passed in to Jackson Garner, who rushed it down the court as if for a layup, only to throw it back at the last second to Trace Thackerson who shot for three and made it, putting the score at 69-71 with four seconds left.

Oak Ridge threw in the ball, only to be fouled immediately, giving them two more foul shots.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the Wildcats made both, leaving them out of reach, even with a trey.

The ball was tossed in to Jackson Garner, who shot and missed.

The Dragons played well, finishing with an effective field goal percentage of 55-percent to Oak Ridge’s 58-percent.

Both teams finished with a three field goal percentage of more than 40-percent.

That was only to be expected from two teams competing for the championship.

Clinton also finished the game with making 100-percent of its free throws.

Free throws, though, might have been what cost the Dragons the game.

That’s because despite Oak Ridge finishing with only 67-percent on free throws, the Wildcats were given a total of 30 shotsfrom the line. Clinton, meanwhile, had only eight.

It would be hard to make a case that fouls didn’t play a role in the Dragons losing the lead in the second half.

Not a single player on Clinton’s team finished with less than two fouls, and Jackson Garner, the top scorer, finished with four.

Players in foul trouble have to play much more cautiously if they hope to keep from being ejected, and that specter over their heads undoubtedly affected the players in the second half.

Garner, the sophomore, had a breakaway night, finishing as the MVP with 26 points, as well as three assists, five rebounds and five treys.

He had nearly as many points as the second- and third-highest-scoring teammates combined, those being Trace Thackerson and Rishon Bright with 15 and 13 points respectively.

Trace Wandell, despite scoring only two points, throughout the game, dominated in every other facet.

He came away with an astounding 10 rebounds, as well as two steals and two deflections.