Waterford wins another district title

JACKSON – Waterford High went for the jugular right off the bat.

Shooting lights out and applying full court pressure in the opening period, the uptempo Wildcats never trailed en route to a 65-26 triumph over Portsmouth Notre Dame in a Ohio D4 district girls basketball championship game at Jackson High Thursday night.

“That was the plan tonight, and it doesn’t always work that way, but the girls did a nice job of getting where they were supposed to be and putting pressure on the ball,” said WHS head coach Jerry Close, whose second-ranked Wildcats improved their record to 24-1. “That was a big key. We knew it was going to be that way, because they’re big. They would’ve hurt us inside if we didn’t keep the pressure on them.”

Alli Kern paced the district top-seeded Cats with a game-high 18 points, 11 in the first quarter.

“Alli’s capable of doing that any night,” Close said. “It’s good to see her shoot well in this game.”

Regan Porter added 15 points, nine in the second half, and Dani Drayer chipped in with 12. Hayley Duff provided a spark off the pine with seven markers.

“We worked on pressuring them (Notre Dame) all week,” Drayer said.

“And we just worked together really well and found each other when we were open.”

As a team, the Wildcats were 16-of-30 from the floor in the first half, and 26-of-54 for the contest.

“We shot much better tonight than the other night (vs. Western Pike),” Close said. “It was good to see. I hope we didn’t use it up, because we’ll it the next game.”

Second-seeded Notre Dame finished its winter campaign with a 21-4 mark. The J.D. McKenzie-coached Titans were led by Lexi Smith and Hagen Schaefer, who tallied eight points apiece.

Notre Dame finished the contest with a total of 25 turnovers.

Led by Kern’s 11 first-quarter points, Waterford staked itself to a 25-10 advantage. The Wildcat pressure also produced nine Titan turnovers in the first eight minutes of action.

“I don’t usually start out like that,” said Kern, modestly. “But I felt pretty good tonight.”

Said Porter, “Alli came out really awesome. She did a nice job.

“We just wanted to come out hard and push it. We wanted to get a lead early and then play like how we like to play. Fast.”

In the second quarter, it was more of the same as Kern, Drayer and Porter scored two buckets apiece to stretch the Wildcat lead to 42-14 at halftime.

“You don’t want to lose the intensity,” said Close of his halftime talk to the team.

“Sometimes you come out really flat in the third quarter. But we did a real nice job of keeping that intensity and playing defense. We had to keep pressure on them in the halfcourt set.”

Porter scored five points, and Erin Roush and Drayer each had four as Waterford’s lead bulged to 56-21 at the end of the third stanza.

In the fourth quarter, just about everyone from both teams got playing time. Unfortunately, Waterford sophomore Megan Ball is still sidelined.

“Megan, I hope, should be ready for the next one,” Close said. “She’s still recovering. I just didn’t want to take any chances with her tonight.”

Waterford is scheduled to play South Webster in a regional semi at Jackson High next Thursday at 7 p.m. South Webster defeated Reedsville Eastern, 61-51, in Thursday’s other district final.

“We got a big one next Thursday,” Close said. “We just know that we have to play good every night.”

Said Drayer, “We’re still not satisfied with where we’re at. We really hope to keep moving forward and we have to work hard every day to get where we want to be.”