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’Cats chasing perfection on the court heading into the new year

As the 2022 calendar year entered its final week, the Oak Ridge High School boys basketball team had a perfect record.

The Wildcats will put their unblemished mark on the line when they play in the Maryville Christmas Tournament.

ORHS was set to open tournament play Tuesday against Hampton (8-3) Tuesday at Maryville High School. The Bulldogs are a top Class A team in the state and made a deep postseason run, reaching the state semifinals.

At some point, the ’Cats may see the host Rebels on their home floor.

“Right now, we’re 10-0 and we’re finding ways to win games,” Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said. “We’re pretty solid defensively and we’re shooting a high percentage from three, but we’re still turning the ball over too much. But we’re finding ways to win, and that’s good.

“We’ll play in the Maryville Tournament after Christmas and we’ll have a couple of tough games. We’ll play Hampton and they’re a good Class A team and they made it to the state tournament last year. Then, we’ll probably have to play Maryville on their home floor. We’ve improved a little bit, but we’ve still got to cut down on the turnovers.”

In their last game before Christmas, the Wildcats (10-0) overcame a sluggish start to notch a 73-53 win over Sevier County on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at Wildcat Arena.

The Wildcats also got past the Smoky Bears (5-6) on Nov. 28, notching a 63-57 win in Sevierville. Three SCHS players missed the contest due to injury.

In the latest matchup between the two teams, the Smoky Bears opened a 29-25 halftime lead despite that the Smoky Bears were short-handed.

“We didn’t get off to a great start and we didn’t do what we like to do,” Green said. “Sevier County played a little harder than we did.

“In the second half, we were more aggressive offensively.”

The aggressiveness obviously paid off for the Wildcats, who scored 46 points against the Smoky Bears after halftime.

Brennen Scott, a junior, led Oak Ridge with 24 points as he knocked down three 3-point shots. He’s averaging 17 points per game in the Wildcats’ first 10 contests this season.

Kaden Brightharp, another junior, had 12 points for the Wildcats, who opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run.

That was thanks to three consecutive long-range jumpers, including two shots from beyond the 3-point arc by Ja’Quez Thomas and another by Brightharp.

From there, the Wildcats all but took control of the game.