HS Girls Basketball: Grand Oaks Sweeps the Battle of the Oaks in Breathtaking Fashion

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/24/2024


OAK RIDGE NORTH, TX -- The Oak Ridge Lady War Eagles (17-11) fell in a 43-42 heartbreaker to the visiting Grand Oaks Lady Grizzlies (17-13) in a rivalry grudge match that effectively determined the fate of the district title.

A reschedule due to rain and potential floods necessitated a time change for the Wednesday matchup, but both teams entered the Oak Ridge gym prepared for a heated battle.

It took some time for both teams to settle in, but after the first basket fell, a steady flow of makes kept the offenses alive through the first quarter.

The scoring surge to open the game was similar to the first time these teams met, with the Lady Grizzlies taking the eventual edge near the start of district. Since then, Oak Ridge has adjusted their course and taken lessons from their only loss in district play.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Grand Oaks Head Coach Shaiakiea Carter spoke on how her team learned from their first matchup against the Lady War Eagles and applied the lessons to the rematch.

“We simply told the team that it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Carter. “It was going to be a great defensive effort from both sides, and they were going to meet us as soon as we got off the bus.”

The contrasting lessons for Oak Ridge and their competitive swagger worked on getting shooters open for efficient looks, resulting in an opening 8-2 run. The offense was so proficient that five different Lady War Eagles recorded baskets during the opening eight minutes.

Persistent pressure and a zone defense from Oak Ridge also added more strain on Grand Oaks, limiting them to free throws and tough jumpers for points.

The Lady Grizzlies did start to find traction toward the end of the first quarter, using their size advantage to work inside for more sure-fire shots.

Their adjustment came just before eight minutes expired, making the score 16-9 with the Lady War Eagles still in the driver’s seat.

Grand Oaks’ residual momentum carried over to the second quarter, where the Lady Grizzlies continued to work on getting inside shots and offensive boards.

In contrast, the Oak Ridge offense went dry. Most of the Lady War Eagles’ points came on fastbreak opportunities, but with Grand Oaks finding success on offense, the chances became few and far between.

The newly awoken Grand Oaks offense and no looks for Oak Ridge on their side resulted in a 13-0 run that lasted well through the midway point of the second quarter.

“It was a lot of preparation,” said Carter on the second quarter swing. “I tell the kids that this is a game of runs. We knew we had to stay in the minute and the moment to win the ball game.”

A Lady War Eagle timeout attempted to cut off the momentum, and the adjustments in the huddle sparked a short run that brought the team back into contention.

With the clock ticking close to the end of the half, the Lady War Eagles worked around the three-point line to pick up points in bulk.

The job not only worked in getting the team’s momentum back but also in drawing the teams closer on the scoreboard. The ride of the second quarter ended with a Lady Grizzly buzzer beater that put the team up 24-23 going into the locker rooms.

After time to adjust during the halftime break, both teams came out with a breakneck pace in a bid to catch the other flatfooted. This change in pace led to frequent turnovers, missed passes, and an overall lack of offensive flow for the squads.

The lead was traded back and forth throughout the third quarter, with neither team maintaining it for more than two minutes at a time.

The Lady Grizzlies attempted to use their size advantage to keep shots falling inside, but sneaky hands from the Lady War Eagles ensured they would not come easy.

A stronger grasp on defense and some momentum charging baskets from behind the arch gave Oak Ridge a fair shot at drawing even or potentially taking the lead.

Some more makes in the high-intensity atmosphere left the teams deadlocked at 36 points apiece going into the final eight minutes.

A palpable energy hung inside the Oak Ridge gymnasium as the final quarter got underway, with both teams hoping to make the knockout blow that would give their team the win.

Grand Oaks made the initial surge that appeared to be the game-clincher by opening the quarter on a 5-1 run. But like they had done all game, the Lady War Eagles continued to fight through the adversity and kept a tie within reach.

Pressure continued to mount as the clock ticked closer to zero, and the separation between the two teams grew smaller.

“Every moment and every second is very important,” said Carter on her emphasis during the clutch. “A lot of it is not strategy. Some of it is about the things that we need to get done. One possession, one stop.”

Oak Ridge had multiple chances to draw even under two minutes but misses and a turnover gave possession back to Grand Oaks with a chance to put the game away with a make or effective time-wasting.

One last gasp was afforded to the Lady War Eagles after an inbound ended up in their hands with less than 30 seconds remaining and free-throws needed to tie.

With the game on the line, two separate trips to the free throw line gave Oak Ridge the chance to tie that they had been working for, but misses under the pressure gave the Lady Grizzlies a hard-fought 43-42 winner.

Grand Oaks’ win now puts them tied in district record with Oak Ridge, with the tiebreaker being theirs. With the stakes well established, Coach Carter does not plan on switching up the team’s preparation as they tightrope through the remainder of the season.

“We are going to prepare the same way we have been,” said Carter. “No matter who is at the top or who is at the bottom, I’m going to approach everything the exact same way.”

Grand Oaks’ win streak now sits at six straight, and they will look to continue it with a matchup at home against the New Caney Lady Eagles. Meanwhile, Oak Ridge will look to rebound on the road against the struggling Cleveland Lady Indians on Saturday.

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