Waterford boys advance to the district final, 56-43

Waterford’s Holden Dailey battles a Whiteoak double-team of Hunter Ruckel (24) and Brayden Yeager (44) during Dailey’s Wildcats’ 56-43 win over Ruckle’s Wildcats Sunday at the Convo. RON JOHNSTON, The Marietta Times

ATHENS — Waterford High played with a lot of confidence.

Relying on ball movement and capitalizing on turnovers, the third-seeded WHS Wildcats downed the seventh-seeded Whiteoak Wildcats, 56-43, Sunday night in an OHSAA Division IV District semifinal boys’ basketball game at the Ohio University Convocation Center.

“It was a great game, wasn’t it?” said Waterford head coach Tom Simms. “We played well.

“The kids came in here comfortable and didn’t get star-struck. I’m real proud of them. They did a good job. They’re having a great run.”

With the victory, the Waterford Wildcats (17-6) are scheduled to play second-seeded Dawson-Bryant in a district final at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at the Convo.

“They’re an outstanding team,” said Simms of the the Hornets from Lawrence County. “They’re well-balanced.

“The cream is rising, and you’re going to have to make a few less mistakes. They’re a very strong team, so we’re going to have to be ready to play.”

Against Whiteoak (12-13), Waterford senior Russ Young was one rebound shy of notching a double-double with a game-high 20 points and nine caroms. Junior Nick Fouss added 12 points, while junior Zane Heiss and senior Wes Jenkins netted nine and eight markers. Senior Peyten Stephens chipped in with five points and five boards.

The Whiteoak Cats were paced by Hunter Ruckel’s 13 points and Zach Rand’s 11.

Sparked by Russell’s eight points and Jenkins’ five, Waterford staked itself to a 17-8 first-quarter advantage. The Wildcats were 8 of 14 from the field.

“Russell is just doing a really good job,” Simms said. “I’m just thrilled for him. He’s having a great senior year. His time has come, and I’m just tickled to death.”

In the second quarter, Waterford got a boost off the bench from Heiss, who scored five points. Early on, Jenkins drained a 3 to give Waterford a 25-13 lead.

“Zane just brings energy,” Simms said. “And Wes had a great game.”

Just before half, Ruckel’s bucket reduced the Whiteoak deficit to 29-21.

The third quarter was tight throughout with Waterford outpointing Whiteoak, 11-8. Fouss, who went scoreless in the opening half, scored five points in the stanza, and Waterford led by double digits going into the final period.

“Nick got a little nervous, and we had to zoom him in,” Simms said.

Whiteoak fought hard during the final eight minutes, but Fouss continued to have the hot hand, scoring seven points. Young tacked eight more points on to his total, including a pair of freebies at crunchtime to help keep Whiteoak at bay.

“Everybody we put in contributed,” Simms said. “Luke (Teters) stepped out on (Ruckel) on that shot at the end of the half — and it was huge taking that bucket away from him.”

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