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Waterford earns hard fought win over South Gallia

Photo by Josh Hughes Waterford’s Laykyn Jones (12) looks to pass during a high school girls basketball game against South Gallia Thursday at the Harry Cooper Annex.

WATERFORD — Cara Taylor’s team-high 22 points led the way against South Gallia on Thursday, as Waterford toppled its TVC-Hocking foe 59-45 from the Harry Cooper Annex.

Waterford (2-1) has seen its schedule dwindle due to complications with the pandemic, as this was only the team’s third game of the season. Assistant Todd Hilverding took over for head coach Jerry Close, who was quarantined at the time of the game. Still the Wildcats came out and smothered the Rebels from the opening whistle. Mackenzie Suprano’s jumper with 2:10 left in the opening frame pushed WHS’s lead out to 16-7, but a pair of made shots from Kennedy Lambert and Jessie Rutt helped close the gap right before the end of the quarter.

Up 18-12 to start the next eight minutes, the ‘Cats kept dialing up a halfcourt press that forced enough turnovers and points on the other end to widen the gap. Taking a 31-18 lead into the locker room, Hilverding’s crew kept up the pace in the second half, as he talked about his team’s effort following the win.

“Effort was a big key. I thought our girls played hard,” he said. “We have some things to work on, don’t get me wrong, but we worked hard. We did a good job defensively, but maybe it was too good a job. We were out of position a few times. We had too many reach-in fouls, but overall, i can’t complain.”

Waterford maintained its double-digit advantage through most of the second half, but timely 3-pointers from South Gallia kept the visitors hanging around. The Rebels splashed in seven makes from beyond the arc on the night, but points were hard to come by, early on.

Early parts of the third were dominated by tie-ups and fouls, so both teams struggled to put points on the board. Then, scores started pouring in about midway through the quarter. A basket from SGHS’s Macie Sanders broke a drought of a couple minutes for both sides, as the Rebels attempted to claw back in. Laykyn Jones (10 points in the win) and Taylor responded on the other end, as Jones buried a triple that forced a timeout with 3:35 on the clock. Taylor followed that up with a pair of free throws to push the lead back up to 38-23. Four of SGHS’s makes from deep came in the second half to make the game closer, but the Wildcats would not be denied.

Brianna Offenberger came off the bench and provided solid minutes, collecting seven rebounds on the night. The ability to scrap for the ball and force the Rebels into mistakes was a large part of why WHS won, according to Hilverding.

Offenberger and the rest of the bench were praised for their contributions, as well.

“Talk about a short bench, but the efforts we got out of Brianna Offenberger, Laykyn and everybody coming off the bench tonight was huge for us. We’ve got to get these girls more playing time, and it’ll bode well for us, later in the season.”

The Wildcats were down a few players, as Riley Schweikert, Kari Carney and Madi Heiner were all quaranting. Hilverding says he expects Schweikert back in time for the team’s next game, noon on Saturday against Southern at the Cooper Annex. As for coach Close, he will also return for that contest. Close spoke over the phone about his thoughts on the year and getting his team more experience in this abbreviated year.

“I got to watch tonight on a livestream,” he said. “We played a little better tonight, but we’ve just got to get some games in. We’re this far into the season, and we’ve had seven games canceled. We just need to play, so we can get some reps in. Before the first of the year, we’re scheduled to play four more, so hopefully, we can get those in.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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