Prep girls basketball: Wildcats win title

THE PLAINS – Head coach Jerry Close and his Waterford Lady Wildcats are no strangers to sectional championship contests.

Saturday at Athens High, the Wildcats made their 10th consecutive sectional championship appearance and for the 10th straight time became champions as they easily handled the Symmes Valley Lady Vikings, 51-24.

“I was very proud of our team effort today,” said Close, in his eighth year as Wildcat head coach. “We’ve been working on some different things and the girls responded pretty well right from the start today.”

The Lady Cats scored early and often as four different players scored points in the games first four minutes.

Hannah Dailey and Taylor Hilverding got things started with inside scores for Waterford and a triple by freshman Dani Drayer made it a 7-0 game.

Chelsey Paxton came up with back-to-back field goals on assists from Hannah Dailey and Brooke Drayer to make it an 11-0 game and forced Symmes Valley into an early time out.

Waterford played outstanding defense from the start as they forced 11 first -quarter Lady Viking turnovers and limited Symmes Valley to zero shot attempts in the games first three minutes.

SV finally got on the board on Megan Johnson’s field goal, but the Lady Cats outscored their opponent 10-4 the rest of the quarter to take a 21-6 lead after the first eight minutes of play.

Dani Drayer connected from behind the arc to open the second quarter for WHS but the Vikings got consecutive baskets by Kalli Hunt, Johnson and Kaitlyn Payne to trim the lead to 25-11.

Dailey scored on a rebound and a putback, and Brooke Drayer followed on an old-fashioned three-point play to push the lead back to 19.

Field goals by Hunt and Johnson sandwiched another Dani Drayer score before back-to-back-to-back scores by the Drayer sisters and Sam Farley capped a 14-4 run that increased the Waterford lead to 39-15.

A pair of freebies by Hunt and a single free-throw by Merranda Hayes trimmed the lead to 21 before Paxton scored the final deuce of the half on a nice assist from Brooke Drayer.

Waterford dominated the Vikings in every aspect in the opening half as they forced 21 turnovers, outrebounded SV by a 14-12 margin, and shot 51 percent (17-33) from the field while limiting the Vikings to just 15 shot attempts.

With the comfortable lead, Close and his girls elected to run a very patient offense in the third quarter as WHS ran off almost five minutes before even attempting a second half shot.

Finally with 3:19 to play in the third, Brooke Drayer drove uncontested to the hoop to increase the lead to 43-18.

After Hayes scored the lone Viking basket of the third quarter, the Wildcats held the ball the rest of the way to end a third quarter that saw just three shot attempts between the two schools combined.

“We have had a little trouble with patience all season,” said Close of the third quarter. “I told them to take care of the basketball and don’t turn it over and if it’s not a sure thing kick it back out and start it over again.”

Waterford continued to work the ball around in the final quarter as they outscored Symmes Valley by a modest 8-4 to close out the victory.

Brooke Drayer paced the Wildcats with 12 points, while also totaling eight steals, five assists, and four rebounds. Dani Drayer and Paxton both reached double figures with 10 points apiece.

Hunt’s eight points paced the Lady Vikings who finished the season with a 10-13 record.

Next up for Waterford (17-6) is a district semifinal at 1:45 p.m. Saturday against Portsmouth Clay at Jackson High. “We saw them (Portsmouth Clay) last season in the district semifinals so we will have some film on them,” said Close. “It’s a good team that we are somewhat familiar with, just with different personnel.”