Cats bow out: Waterford falls 47-30 to Eastern in regional semi

JACKSON – Unlike the first two matchups this season, Waterford was able to compete with top-ranked Eastern for most of Thursday’s Division IV regional semifinal game at Jackson High School.

But, like the first two matchups, the result was still a loss for the Lady Wildcats as the Lady Eagles avoided the upset with a 47-30 victory over their TVC-Hocking rivals.

Eastern (24-1) will play for a regional championship Saturday against Newark Catholic in a rematch of last year’s regional title game.

Waterford’s (18-8) season comes to an end, but not before giving Eastern by far its toughest battle of the postseason so far.

“I don’t think there was a lot of people in here that expected this game to be close,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close. “The kids did what they could do, we just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop tonight.

“I couldn’t ask them to play any harder. They played as hard as they could play.”

The Lady Wildcats’ defense performed very well for the majority of the game, holding Eastern to 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) from the floor and forcing 23 turnovers.

Eastern’s D, though, was just a tad better, holding Waterford to just 23.3 percent (10-for-43) shooting, including 13.3 percent (2-for-15) from beyond the arch. The Eagles limited Dani Drayer and Regan Porter, who averaged nearly 27 points combined per game this season, to just five and six markers, respectively. Randee Seevers led the Wildcats with nine points.

Jenna Burdette and Jordan Parker accounted for 38 of Eastern’s 47 points on the night, tallying 20 and 18, respectively. Parker hit a game-high four 3-pointers, including two pivotal treys in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

“I told the girls this week… it’s not going to be a real high-scoring game,” said Eastern head coach John Burdette. “We’ve just got to keep our composure and stay ahead and that’s what they did.”

Porter scored four straight points on back-to-back buckets midway through the first quarter to give Waterford a 6-2 lead. It didn’t last long, though, as Burdette assisted Parker on a 3-ball and later made consecutive jump-shots as Eastern scored the final nine points of the opening period to go up 11-6.

For the first four minutes of the second quarter, the only scoring came on a pair of free throws from Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding and Eastern’s Burdette.

At one point during that stretch Eastern committed turnovers on four straight possessions, but Waterford was unable to generate any points out of the miscues.

“We’ve got to score,” Close said. “We had a lot of opportunities. (We) missed a lot of layups, missed a lot of free throws.

“I know it ended up being 17, but it could’ve been a six, eight-point game just as easily.”

Hannah Dailey finally scored the first field goal of the quarter at the 3:23 mark, but Eastern’s Katie Keller quickly answered with a layup to make the score 15-10. The Eagles’ lead stretched to seven, 19-12, by halftime as Erin Swatzel and Burdette each scored a basket.

Three-pointers by Burdette and Parker put Eastern up 25-14 early in the second half, but Waterford responded with an 11-4 run to get within 29-25 with three minutes left in the third. Seevers scored six points to lead the rally.

However, just as Waterford was getting into striking distance, Eastern extended its lead back to eight, 33-25, on buckets by Burdette and Swatzel going into the final period.

Dailey assisted Porter on a 2-pointer for the first points of the quarter, but then Burdette scored five straight points to put the Eagles up 38-27 with 4:05 left in the game.

Waterford’s last threat was a 3-pointer by Seevers to cut the deficit to eight, but Parker countered with a pair triples to make the score 44-30 with just 1:28 remaining. That was all she wrote.

“That’s a great group of kids,” Close said of the Eastern girls. “They’re ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason.”

Waterford graduates five seniors – Dailey, Seevers, Sam Farley, Cassie Reed and Lakin Tolson.

“It’s always tough to lose your seniors,” Close said.

“It’s tough to see all your seniors go. I hate it for the seniors. The underclassmen, it’s nice to have all them back and hopefully they work hard to get better.”