Prep girls basketball: Waterford girls win overtime thriller

JACKSON – Down three to Peebles with just seven seconds left in Thursday’s district semifinal at Jackson High, the Waterford Lady Wildcats needed a clutch shot.

They got three.

Sophomore Dani Drayer, after getting fouled on a long 3-point attempt, stepped to the free throw line and tranquilly drained all three foul shots to tie the game and force overtime.

Waterford outscored Peebles 6-3 in the extra session to claim a 48-45 victory and advance to the district final against South Webster next week.

“We did everything we could do to keep ourselves in it,” said Waterford coach Jerry Close.

“You hope that, with as much basketball as Dani’s played over the years, that’s where it pays off, in situations like this.”

Contrary to how it looked, Drayer said she was definitely feeling the nerves.

“I felt pretty pressured,” said Drayer, who led Waterford with 16 points. “I was worried I was gonna miss it and upset the whole team, so I just took my time and made them.”

It was a back and forth affair until midway through the second quarter.

Tied up at 15-all with 5:16 remaining before halftime, Peebles went on a 10-2 run to take a 25-17 advantage into halftime.

Needing to get back in the game, the Wildcats switched up their defensive pressure in the third quarter with spectacular results. Waterford’s diamond zone press defense flustered the Lady Indians, holding them to just four third quarter points.

“We switched up the way we were pressuring and I think it caught them off guard,” Close said.

“The kids made a good adjustment and got where they needed to be. That was the thing.”

Drayer added “We dropped out of our full court press and started the diamond, which we’re a lot better at. When we get into that, we hustle a lot more and can see further ahead of us.”

Meanwhile, Regan Porter and Taylor Hilverding combined for eight points before Drayer scored five straight to give Waterford a 30-27 lead with two minutes left in the third. Jessica Sowards connected on a pair of free throws to cut it to a 1-point game with one quarter left to play.

After Randee Seevers knocked down a pair at the line to open the fourth, Peebles’ Sidney Pell hit a 3-pointer before teammate Bailey Wallace scored five straight points to put the Indians back on top 37-32.

Later, with 1:14 left to play, Drayer assisted Porter on a layup to make it 39-36. After Brooke Justice hit 1-of-2 at the charity stripe for Peebles, Hilverding answered by hitting nothing but net on a trey to bring the ‘Cats within one. Hannah Dailey had a key offensive rebound on the possession to set up Hilverding’s 3-ball.

Pell was fouled with 26 seconds left and made both free throws before Drayer answered on the other end with a trio of freebies.

Peebles inbounded the ball but could not get a shot off, forcing overtime.

Drayer’s putback with 3:17 left in OT tied it up at 44-all. Pell hit 1-of-2 at the line on the other end but Hilverding answered with a layup with 1:45 to go to give Waterford the lead for good, 46-45.

After the two teams exchanged turnovers, Peebles missed a shot opportunity and fouled Porter on the rebound with nine seconds left. Porter hit both free throws to make it a 3-point game. Pell tried a deep 3-point attempt to tie it but was well off the mark to end the game.

Porter, who had been dealing with illness, scored 14 points while Hilverding added 12 for Waterford. Maddy Sury, normally a guard, was forced to play key minutes in the post on defense in relief of Porter and held her own.

“Every kid gave me everything,” Close said.

“This is the proudest I’ve been of this team all year. I’ve been waiting on this performance all year.”

Wallace tallied a game-high 19 markers while Pell added 15 for Peebles.