Prep basketball: Waterford girls drill Belpre

WATERFORD – There’s no place like home for the holidays.

And with a plethora of family – including a pair of sisters who scored 1,000 points in Waterford green – home for the occasion, Waterford sophomore Dani Drayer found herself feeling a little like she was in the spotlight.

Spotlight or not, Drayer and the Lady Wildcats delivered.

“My whole family was here. I kinda felt the pressure on. I was nervous,” Drayer laughed.

Drayer recorded 28 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals to lead a Waterford team that dominated from the game’s first minute to its last as the Lady Wildcats took a 68-36 win over the visiting Belpre Lady Eagles Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the year for Belpre, with its other defeat coming at the hands of Eastern. Together, Waterford and Belpre have combined for 14 wins as the Christmas break nears.

“I’m happy with the effort,” said Waterford girls’ basketball coach Jerry Close. “All 10 kids that played, played hard. We need all 10 to contribute and I felt like we were able to do that tonight.”

In point of fact, all 10 girls that saw the court for Waterford made their way into the scorebook offensively, and defensively were part of an aggressive force that held the Lady Eagles to just 14-of-54 shooting from the field.

“We were a little out of sync tonight,” said Belpre girls’ basketball coach Scott Miller.

“Part of it was the pressure defense that Coach Close always has his team playing.”

That pressure defense had Belpre committing more turnovers than it had made field goals in the first half of play, and it resulted in an early deficit the Lady Eagles could never dig their way out of.

Waterford’s defense held Belpre without a field goal for nearly four minutes of play, and by that time the Lady Wildcats had built a nine point advantage.

“We kept switching things up. We’d go zone. We’d go back to press, we’d go man,” Drayer said.

Defense helped spark the Lady Wildcats’ offense, which got rolling when Randee Seevers hit the first shot from the field for Waterford with 7:28 in the first quarter. That was followed by Drayer’s pair of charity tosses and Regan Porter’s old-fashioned three-point play as Belpre was whistled for eight fouls in the first eight minutes, struggling to keep pace with Waterford’s style of play.

“One of my biggest frustrations tonight that I hope we’ll be able to fix is not getting back,” Miller said. “We gave them too many easy scores.”

Those easy buckets came in bunches for Waterford, as the Lady Wildcats built a 10-point advantage with 3:49 to play in the first half when senior Hannah Dailey scored in the paint of Drayer’s assist.

Sixteen seconds later Dailey again scored off Drayer’s assist, and Waterford kept the momentum rolling as the Lady ‘Cats led 23-9 after the first eight minutes of play.

The margin continued to blossom throughout the second frame, as Waterford led 35-11 on Drayer’s trifecta with 4:08 to play before Belpre finally found a measure of offensive life as the Lady Eagles scored five of the final seven points in the half to trail 37-16 at the break.

At halftime, Drayer had accounted for 20 of her team’s 37 points to single-handedly outscore Belpre.

Down by 21 at halftime, Belpre managed a stronger effort from the floor in the second half but could never get in enough of a rhythm to catch up to the Lady Wildcats.

Trailing 43-16 after a bucket by Taylor Hilverding, Belpre showcased its best offensive series of the night as the Lady Eagles strung together eight of 12 points, with Hannah Lawrentz starting the streak with a bucket off Jackie Cunningham’s assist with 5:26 in the third.

The streak ended on Lexus Cunningham’s bucket with 3:23 in the stanza as Belpre would hit just one field goal in the next 5:22 of play as the Waterford defense returned the Lady Eagles to their hectic style of play from the first half.

“They were in a hurry. We wanted to keep them in a hurry. If they can get set, they’re a good shooting team,” Close said.

Leading 52-26 after three, Waterford expanded its lead by another six points in the final quarter of the night, with senior Lakin Tolson setting the game’s final score as she hit a bucket in the paint and then a free throw with 39 seconds on the clock.

With that basket Tolson became the 10th girl in Waterford green to dot the scoreboard, and send the hundreds of Waterford fans home to celebrate the holidays as well as their seventh win of the season.

“I feel like our community really helps the team,” Drayer said. “They’re encouraging us to do better.”