WELLSTON - For one half of play the Waterford Wildcats got the opportunity to play the game of basketball according to their game plan.
Unfortunately for Waterford, that half happened to be the first half of its sectional final against the Eastern Pike Eagles.
The second half didn't go anything at all the way Waterford had scripted in the game plan, and the result was the end of the season as the Wildcats fell to Eastern Pike 58-46 at Wellston High School Tuesday night.
"We got into their game plan and that's not our game plan," said Waterford boys' basketball coach Tom Simms.
After a first half that went according to the Wildcats tempo with the two teams having to constantly work the basketball to get shots off, the Eagles were able to make the Wildcats run in the second half.
And when the Wildcats got running, they got sloppy. The result was 29 trips to the free throw line for Eastern Pike as the Eagles made 19 of them en route to the 12 point win.
"They got us running and we ran with them instead of going back and staying in our game," Simms lamented.
The second half meltdown totally eclipsed the hard work the Wildcats had put into the first half as Waterford lead until the final minute of the first half.
Levi Porter got the Waterford offense rolling by scoring the first five points of the ball game. Porter's basket off an assist from Levi McCutcheon put Waterford on the board with 5:05 to go, and his old-fashioned three-point play gave the Wildcats a 5-0 advantage with 3:33 to go in the first quarter.
Eastern would finally get onto the scoreboard courtesy of the free throw line when Aaron Satterfield hit a pair of charity tosses with 2:14 to go. Against the Waterford defense the Eagles needed nearly four full minutes of play to even get a shot off, as Eastern Pike had just five attempts from the field in the opening stanza, hitting on just one of them.
Waterford led 7-4 after the first quarter of play and expanded the lead thanks to a strong start to the second quarter of play.
Following a bucket from Morgan Cisco for Eastern Pike, which cut the lead to 7-6, Waterford scored nine of the next 13 points to lead 16-10 on a three-pointer by McCutcheon off an assist from Austin Shriver.
That lead would be Waterford's biggest advantage of the night, as the Eagles slowly began chipping away at the Wildcat lead.
A three-pointer by Satterfield with 58 seconds on the clock before halftime set the score at 18-18 at the break.
The strong effort offensively and defensively for the Wildcats in the first half was undone in the first half of the third quarter as the Eagles slowly began to find their offensive rhythm after going just 7-of-18 from the field in the first half and committing nine turnovers.
"We didn't shoot well. They didn't shoot well in the first half. We didn't shoot well in the second half," Simms said.
Eastern Pike claimed the lead for the first time, 20-18, on a basket b Cisco and extended the lead to 21-18 on a 1-of-2 effort from the free throw line by Tavares Pickett.
Waterford would answer as McCutcheon hit a three-pointer with 5:42 to go tie the score, but the Eagles weren't about to let up on the momentum they were rapidly gaining.
Dakota Hawks sank a jumper for a 23-21 lead, and after Waterford reclaimed the lead at 24-23 on a 1-of-2 effort at the line from Porter, Eastern Pike took the lead for good on Satterfield's basket with 3:44 to play in the third.
An old-fashioned three-point play by the Eagles Billy Lykins prompted a timeout from Simms, but the Wildcats simply couldn't halt the momentum as Waterford trailed 33-26 heading into the final frame.
Waterford would make a run at the Eagles, but could never get the deficit below five points in the fourth quarter as the Wildcat offense struggled against the defensive changes made by Eastern Pike head coach P.J. Fitch at the break.
"They were pushing the guards out and made it tough for us to get the ball inside," Simms said.
Eastern Pike pushed the lead to double figures for the first time at 38-28 on two free throws from Jordan Thornsberry, and the lead stayed at double figures for good after a basket by Pickett with 3:08 to play in regulation.
Eastern Pike scored its last points when reserve Adam Pearl hit two free throws with 44.3 seconds remaining.
Waterford got a three-pointer by Shriver and a putback basket by Moore with 12 seconds left in the game to set the final score at 58-46 in favor of the Eagles.
The Wildcats end the season with an 11-10 record after suffering through numerous injuries, illnesses and eligibility issues over the course of the 2010-2011 campaign.
"These guys have gone through a lot of adversity and they worked hard. They never quit. They never quit," Simms said.
Eastern Pike 58, Waterford 46
Eastern 4 14 15 25 - 58
Waterford 7 11 8 20 - 46
EASTERN PIKE: Dakota Hawks 3-5 35- 9; Chad Lands 0-6 1-2 1; Morgan Cisco 3-4 0-1 6; Jordan Thornsbewrry 1-4 4-7 6; Tavares Pickett 5-8 3-4 13; Caleb Watkins 3-9 2-4 6; Aaron Satterfield 3-6 3-3 10; Billy Lykins 1-4 1-1 3; Blake Roberts 0-0 0-0 0; Adam Pearl 0-0 2-2 2; Alex Alley 0-1 0-0 0. Team 19-42 19-29 58. 3pt goals 1 (Satterfield 1).
WATERFORD (11-10): Alex McCutcheon 0-0 0-0 0; Levi Porter 4-13 3-6 11; Aaron Miller 2-10 1-2 6; Levi McCutcheon 4-10 1-2 11; Travis Ball 1-4 0-0 2; Austin Shriver 5-9 1-3 12; Brian Moore 1-4 0-0 2; Matt West 1-1 0-0 2; Braden Burer 0-0 0-2 0; Eli Strahler 0-1 0-0 0. Team 18-52 6-15 46. 3pt goals 4 (L. McCutcheon 2, Shriver 1, Miller 1).
Eastern: Shooting 19-42 (45 percent); 3pt shootiung 1-6 (17 percent); Rebounds 29 (Pickett 8, Hawks 6); Assists 6 (Hawks 3); Steals 10 (Thornsberry 6); Turnovers 17; Blocks 3; Total fouls 13
Waterford: Shooting 18-52 (35 percent); 3pt shooting 4-17 (24 percent); Rebounds 31 (Porter 7, Miller 6, L. McCutcheon 6); Assists 6 (Miller 2); Steals 8 (Porter 4); Turnovers 23; Blocks 2; Total fouls 20.