Prep girls basketball: Cats top Southern

WATERFORD – It may not have been the most beautiful form of basketball they’ve ever displayed, but when the Waterford Lady Wildcats needed it most, they found the desire to win.

Waterford turned a two-point ball game midway through the second quarter into a comfortable lead with a 20-0 run as the Lady Wildcats pulled away for a 75-38 victory over the visiting Southern Lady Tornadoes Wednesday night.

“We did okay. We didn’t play our best, but I think we did okay,” said Waterford junior Hannah Dailey, who notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight steals and six assists.

The Lady Wildcats needed their scoring spurts, as a much-improved Southern team sought to show it could play with one of southeastern Ohio’s best programs.

“This is the best we’ve played against Waterford in a long time,” said Southern girls’ basketball coach Scott Cleland.

The best the Lady Tornadoes had to offer kept them in the ball game early, but when the Waterford defense made an appearance there was no stopping the momentum of the Lady Wildcats.

Waterford forced Southern into 15 turnovers in the first quarter and 31 in the first half to transform the ball game. The bulk of those turnovers translated into points as six different Waterford players recorded at least four steals and five tallied eight points or more.

“Our pressure really helps us out, but that won’t always get us. We have to be able to play defense,” said Waterford senior Chelsey Paxton, who chipped in eight points and six each of rebounds, assists and steals.

Using their size advantage in the post, the Lady Tornadoes commanded the paint early to tally the game’s first bucket and keep it close through the first four minutes of play, as the score was 4-4 on Celestia Hendrix’s bucket with 5:42 in the first quarter.

Southern’s post game with Hendrix and Jansen Wolfe would account for 21 of the Lady Tornadoes’ 38 points, but the inside-game wasn’t enough as they were just 14-for-44 from the field in the game.

“Our help-side defense was there,” explained Waterford senior Brooke Drayer, who had a double-double with 20 points, 10 assists, eight steals and four rebounds.

After Hendrix’s bucket tied the game at 4-4, the Lady Wildcats took off as Dailey scored off an assist from Drayer, and then found Paxton 28 seconds later to spur Waterford on its scoring run.

In a span of 2 minutes and 50 seconds the game went from tied up to 24-4 in favor of Waterford.

“We played very well in spurts. Then we played really sloppy in spurts,” noted Waterford girls’ basketball coach Jerry Close.

Following that 20-0 run, Waterford’s offense would go into hiding and Southern displayed a touch of tenacity, as the Lady Tornadoes were outscored just 19-15 in the second quarter despite committing the 31 turnovers at the break.

“Southern’s very much improved,” Close praised. “It’s nice to see they have a full JV schedule now. The program is going to be better for it.”

Southern’s improved effort wasn’t quite enough to get back into the game against the potent Lady Wildcats.

Much as they did in the first quarter, the Lady Wildcats found a rhythm in the third quarter as Waterford enjoyed a 12-1 run to keep the game out of reach.

“Their spurts came when ours didn’t,” Cleland said. “They settled down. They hit the shots and we didn’t,” he continued.

Leading 61-31 after three quarters of play, the Lady Wildcats coasted through the final quarter of their third game in three days, with a bucket by Sam Farley off an assist from Cassie Reed with 1:26 to play setting the final score.

That assist by Reed was the 29th of the ball game for Waterford on just 34 field goals. Of the 11 girls that stepped on the court, only two didn’t record a basket or an assist and the starters outscored the bench just 42-33.

“We have to have everybody,” Paxton said. “One person can’t do it all. If everybody’s all spread out with our points we’re probably going to win.”

Southern was paced by Hendrix, who had 12 points while Wolfe posted nine points and eight rebounds. Shelby Pickens added seven points and seven boards in the loss.

Waterford improved to 9-2 on the season while Southern fell to 2-9.

“It wasn’t our best game. We still have some things to work on,” Drayer said.