Waterford rolls: Brooke Drayer leads Wildcats past Belpre, 69-42

WATERFORD – Brooke Drayer, Chelsey Paxton and Hannah Offenberger played their final career games at Waterford Elementary School Thursday night as it was “Senior Night” for the Lady Wildcats.

The trio of Waterford seniors made it a night to remember, as they helped the team claim a 69-42 victory over TVC foe Belpre.

Drayer led all scorers with 22 points and also had seven rebounds and six assists. She said the energy of the crowd made the night much more special.

“The fans and everyone coming to the games makes ‘Senior Night’ so much better,” Drayer said. “It means more to us that there’s more people here. It means quite a bit.”

Paxton joined Drayer in double figures with 11 points to go along with five boards.

“I was really proud of my team,” Paxton said. “It was really exciting and they all gave it their all tonight. They made it a great last game.”

For Offenberger, it was the first game of the season, as the senior had been out with a knee injury. She made her first basket of the year early in the first quarter off an assist from Drayer to put Waterford up 4-0.

“It felt awesome,” Offenberger said. “The support of the team, coaches, everyone, the fans, it was awesome. I hope I can come back and play in the tournament and come back strong.”

“It’s been a good four years for them,” Waterford head coach Jerry Close said of his seniors. “It’s always nice to win at home on ‘Senior Night’. They’ve meant a lot to our program for four years. They’ve all been a big part of what we’ve done. They’ll be missed next year, but hopefully we’ve got a long season ahead of us yet.”

The Lady Wildcats have two road games remaining against South Gallia and Marietta. Should they beat South Gallia, they will clinch a share of the TVC title. After that, Waterford will look to make noise in the postseason, as it owns the second seed in Division IV Southeastern bracket.

“Whenever it comes time for us to do what we’re supposed to do, I think we’ll pull it out,” Paxton said.

For Belpre, Thursday’s game was the final contest of the regular season. The Lady Golden Eagles now have their sights set on Miller in the first round of the sectional tournament Monday. Should they win, they will go on to play South Gallia for a sectional championship next Saturday (Feb. 16).

“What I expect of our team is to come out and play like we need to play against Miller to beat them,” said Belpre head coach Scott Miller, “and get the chance to play South Gallia who’s beaten us twice.

“We’re the underdog. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

After Offenberger’s bucket in the first period, Claudia Hall hit a free throw to make the score 4-1. After a basket by Regan Porter, Paxton hit back-to-back layups to put Waterford up 10-1. After Belpre’s Sierra Barker responded with a 3-pointer, Drayer made a bucket followed by a layup from Porter and a pair of free throws by Randee Seevers to extend the lead to 18-5.

The Lady Wildcats scored the first 10 points of the second quarter to go up 28-7. Later, Drayer made a layup via an assist from her sister Dani Drayer. The Drayer’s then hit a layup apiece to go up 40-12.

In the third quarter, a steal and a layup by Lexus Cunningham cut the deficit to 48-24, but consecutive 2-pointers by Brooke Drayer stretched it back to a 54-27 Waterford lead.

“Waterford is a top-notch team,” Miller lamented.

From the floor, Waterford shot 31-for-59 (53 percent) on the night while Belpre was 14-for-46 (30 percent).

With the victory, the Wildcats are now 15-5 overall and 14-1 in the TVC. Belpre fell to 15-7 overall and 9-7 in the conference.