MERCERVILLE - Defense and rebounding wins championships.
The Waterford girls basketball was stellar in both of those aspects Saturday afternoon as the Lady Wildcats cruised to the 54-29 victory over host South Gallia and a share of their ninth consecutive Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division title.
Waterford (16-5, 15-1 TVC Hocking) stormed out of the gates, out scoring South Gallia (17-5, 12-4) 8-to-2 over the first three minutes, a stretch in which SGHS made two free throws. The Lady Rebels first field goal came at the 4:42 mark of the first but WHS closed the quarter with a 10-to-2 run, to make set the lead a 18-6.
Photo courtesy of Alex Hawley
Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding (14) dribbles past a South Gallia defender during prep girls’ basketball action Saturday. The Lady Wildcats won 54-29.
The Lady Cats cranked up the defense in the second period and out scored SGHS 16-to-2 in the quarter. The Lady Rebels were held without the luxury of a field goal for the final 11:12 of the first half. The Green and White held a 22-to-11 rebound advantage at halftime.
"With senior night we had a lot of emotion in the first half and of course Waterford came out and played pretty good," South Gallia coach Brett Bostic said. "We got some looks and didn't hit the shots. We were 2-of-18 in the first half and we had 15 turnovers and those two things don't add very well."
The Lady Rebels began the second half with renewed intensity and out scored Waterford 4-to-2 over the opening three minutes. The Lady Cats answered back with a 9-to-2 run to end the third with a 45-14 advantage.
With the second unit in for Waterford, the Lady Rebels rallied for a 15 points in the finale but WHS scored nine and sealed the 54-29 victory and a share of the TVC Hocking crown.
"It was a lot harder fought title this year," Waterford coach Jerry Close said. "The girls had to respond well, we've had our ups and downs but when the title's been on the line we've risen up. We started off with a big loss at Eastern during the first part of the year and the girls have worked hard and fought back to win this league title and share it with Eastern."
Junior Rachel Johnson led South Gallia with 11 points, followed by senior Ellie Bostic with seven. Meghan Caldwell marked five points, Mikayla Poling finished with four and Jasmyne Johnson added two, rounding out the SGHS scoring.
Bostic led the Lady Rebels on the boards with six rebounds, followed by Caldwell with four. Caldwell and Poling each had a team-high two assists, while Bostic had one. Poling, Bostic, Rebecca Rutt, Rachel Johnson and Jasmyne Johnson each finished the game with one steal.
As a team the Red and Gold had 18 rebounds, five assists, five steals and 19 turnovers. The Lady Rebels were charged with just four personal fouls in the game. South Gallia shot just 11-of-40 (27.5 percent) from the field including just 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from three point range. Rachel Johnson was responsible for the lone SGHS triple. The shooting woes continued from the free throw line as the Lady Rebels were just 6-of-16 from the line for 37.5 percent.
"We have a little bit of work to take care of," Bostic said. "We made a few challenges to the girls, and if we get by the sectional final we have some work to do."
Waterford finished with four players in double figures, led by Chelsey Paxton with 12. Randee Seevers chipped in with 11 points, while Brooke Drayer and Regan Porter each marked 10 in the triumph. Taylor Hilverding contributed five points, Hannah Dailey had four and Maddy Sury added two, rounding out the WHS scoring.
The Lady Cats finished with 31 rebounds and 23 turnovers in the game. Waterford shot 24-of-52 from the field for 46.2 percent, while attempting no free throws. WHS cashed in six times from beyond the arc, led by Seevers with three triples.
Brooke Drayer finished with two three-pointers while Hilverding accounted for the other.
"We have a lot of young kids playing and it's taken us about half the season to get everybody on the same page," Close said. "Now we're starting to know where everybody's at on the floor and we're really starting to gel. The chemistry is getting good and this is the time of year you want that."
SGHS never led in the contest and never tied it up. The Lady Cats largest lead of the game was 34 points. WHS also defeated South Gallia on December 20th in Washington County by a count of 54-32. Nine consecutive years Waterford has been crowned TVC Hocking champion or co-champion, seven of those years have came with Close as the head coach.
Before the game the Lady Rebels honored seniors Meghan Caldwell, Ellie Bostic, Jasmyne Johnson, Rebecca Rutt and Sara Rustmeyer, each of whom were playing in their final home game. South Gallia also recognized Waterford seniors Brooke Drayer and Chelsey Paxton.