Waterford comes alive in second half, beats Belpre

TOM PERRY The Marietta Times Waterford’s Noah Huffman makes a move with the ball as Belpre’s Bailey Sprague defends during a high school boys basketball game Friday at the Harry Cooper Annex. Waterford won, 62-36.

WATERFORD — After a sluggish first half, it wouldn’t have surprised many if Waterford coach Tom Simms had ripped into his players in the locker room.

“I’m sure they were in there thinking the world was going to come to an end when I walked in,” said the Wildcats’ veteran boys coach. “Instead, I came in at half and told them to calm down and slow down, and that’s what they did in the second half.”

The Wildcats did respond with a dominating second-half performance as they cruised to a 62-36 victory over Belpre in a Tri-Valley Conference game. It was the season opener for Waterford, while the Golden Eagles dropped to 0-2 on the young season.

Simms reminded his players that it’s a new season and this group has to find its own identity, and they are different than last year’s squad that finished 20-5 and reached the Division IV regional semifinal.

“We have to forget about last year, and we can’t look back. Graduation happens,” Simms said. “Our concern since the preview against Morgan has been trying to get into our flow. I think we finally saw a little bit of that in the second half.”

Waterford’s Travis Pottmeyer (42) goes up for a basket as Belpre’s Jeremiah Stitt defends during a high school boys basketball game Friday at the Harry Cooper Annex. TOM PERRY The Marietta Times

Bryce Hilverding and Wyatt Lang led the charge in a 25-point third quarter that helped the Wildcats (1-0, 1-0) increase a four-point halftime lead to 20. Lang had eight points, while Hilverding had seven points.

“In the first half, it looked like our first game,” said Hilverding, who led all scorers with 24 points.

“We came out in the second half and played more of our game, and we got into a flow.”

Hilverding added eight more points, including two of his four 3-point baskets, in the final quarter as Waterford outscored Belpre 41-19 in the second half. Lang finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Simms said he simplified the offensive approach in the second half.

“We took a lot of the offensive options away, and we stopped letting them think,” he said. “We just told them this is what you have and this is what you have to do. I think that helped settle them down.”

Simms admits even he needed to be reminded that it’s a new season and it’s a roster full of new players.

“I tried to do things that we did last year, and we’re just not there yet,” he said. “We will get there, but this is step one, and we just needed to come together and settle down.”

Belpre’s first-year coach Tyler Leasure was pleased with what he saw in the first half and hopes the Golden Eagles can play like that for a whole game soon.

“If we do we’re going to be tough,” he said. “In the first half, we did a good job on the defensive end. In the second half, we got down by 10 quick, and then Jeremiah (Stitt) got hurt, and that put more pressure on us. I’m proud of the effort I saw in the first half. The guys are hurting right now, but we’re getting better.”

Brandon Simoniette led the Golden Eagles with 14 points, while Bailey Sprague added nine points. Stitt had 11 rebounds before the leg injury.

Simms was impressed with what he saw in Belpre.

“Belpre is hungry,” he said. “Coach Leasure is doing a great job, and they are going to get better.”

Waterford faces a tough task today as it travels to play the host of the Fairland Tournament at 7 p.m.

“They called and asked if we wanted to play in the tournament, and I quickly said yes,” Simms said. “We want to test ourselves, and you have to play games against good teams. This is going to be a challenge.”