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Lady Wildcats hand Central first loss

Nobody could blame Donnie Green if he were a little disappointed Thursday despite seeing his Oak Ridge High School girls soccer team notch a District 3-AAA win.

The Lady Wildcats defeated previously unbeaten Knox Central 4-3 at home.

Trouble was: They didn’t beat the Lady Bobcats by a big enough margin to capture the outright regular-season title.

But the coach managed to shed a positive light on his side’s situation as the league championship will likely be shared by the Lady Wildcats, Powell and Central with the Lady Wildcats claiming the No. 1 seed based on the goal differential tiebreaker. ORHS needed a two-goal win to take the regular-season championship.

But it wasn’t to be.

“We would’ve liked to have won the district championship, but we’ll take the win,” Green said. “We’re the only team to beat them this year.

“They’re a good team, and other than Bearden, they’re the best team we’ve played all year. Other than Bearden, they have the best and most potent attack that we’ve seen.

Central (12-1 overall, 4-1 in the district) may be explosive. But it was the Lady Wildcats (10-1-1, 3-1) who jumped out to an early lead as Hayven Lauendine and Aniya Fisher gave Oak Ridge an early 2-0 advantage before Edie Wilds got Central on the board.

Later, Lilah Kim, who assisted Lauendine’s marker, scored two tallies of her own with help from Fisher. Oak Ridge had a 4-1 lead and appeared poised to earn the crown.

But Paige Branum had other ideas. She scored twice in the second half, and converted a penalty kick late to earn the championship for the Lady Bobcats, meaning they would celebrate despite having their hopes for a perfect 2023 campaign dashed.

“This is a big deal,” Central Coach Bill Mize said. “We’re the smallest school in AAA.

“But we have some great players and they’ve worked so hard and I’m really proud of them.”

Green also had plenty to be happy about.

“We had ’em; we had a two-goal lead and then we commit a foul in the box and they make the penalty kick,” Green said. “But I had a game plan against Central and the girls executed it.

“I wanted to slow Edie down and we did that. If our girls can execute like they did against them, we’ll do pretty well.”

Oak Ridge, which played Farragut Tuesday (results were not available at press time), closes out district play against hapless Campbell County Thursday on Senior Night.