Shooting woes plague Wildcats in loss
JACKSON — Waterford just couldn’t get shots to go through the hoop.
The Wildcats were 14 for 58 from the floor (24 percent) and just 1 for 21 from the 3-point line in a 50-39 loss to Peebles in a Division IV district final Thursday at Jackson.
Also plaguing Waterford (20-5) was 14 missed free-throws. Meanwhile, the Indians (17-8) were 43 percent (16 for 37) from the floor and overcame 26 turnovers caused by Waterford’s defensive pressure.
Ultimately, the game boiled down to the shots that didn’t fall for the Wildcats.
“I didn’t put (the players) in good enough spots,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close. “They played hard. They played as hard as I could ask them to play. It is what it is. You just don’t expect this. But we’re a good team. Won 20 games and had a good year. The growth of this team has been really good.”
Jacey Justice led the Indians with 14 points. She entered the game averaging 24.4 per contest.
“We did a good job on her,” Close said. “But the ones who didn’t average much hurt us tonight. Sometimes that’s what you get when you get a good player. You concentrate on her and somebody else scores more points. It balances out.”
Jerilin Toler and Tatum Avery added nine apiece for Peebles, which led 12-11 after a quarter and 26-21 at halftime.
Waterford opened the third quarter with a layup from Emily Kern to get within three, but a 6-0 run by Peebles made it 32-23.
The closest Waterford got from there was within six, 41-35, with 4:20 left in the game after Cara Taylor’s steal and layup. But the Indians scored the game’s next five points to go up 11 with 2:59 remaining. Waterford cut it to seven, 46-39, on Riley Schweikert’s putback basket with 1:38 left, but those were the last points Waterford scored. Peebles’ Kylie Simms made three free-throws in the final minute to seal the deal.
Taylor led the Wildcats with a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Rachael Adams added 10 points and six boards. Mackenzie Suprano chipped in seven caroms.
Adams’ 3 at the 5:32 mark in the first quarter put the ‘Cats up 5-4, but Waterford was unable to sink another trifecta the rest of the contest.
“We knew what they were doing,” Close said of Peebles’ defense. “Like I said, I just didn’t have them in the right spots.”
The win gave the Indians their first district championship since 1998. They’ll face Notre Dame at 7 p.m. March 7 at Jackson in a regional semifinal.
For Waterford, the loss snapped a streak of seven straight district titles and four straight state tournament appearances. While the Wildcats graduate four seniors, they return a solid group next year and are optimistic about the future.
“I know my kids,” Close said. “They’ll be back next year and they’ll be ready to fight. We’ve got a lot of things to get better on. We lose four seniors (Kern, Adams, Sydney Huffman and Alicia Dickinson. These kids are going to have to get in the gym and work hard and hopefully we’ll get back.”