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Waterford outlasts Frontier, 34-32, in opener

Photo By Jay W. Bennett Waterford’s Jude Huffman finishes at the rim during the Wildcats’ 34-32 road win Friday night against host Frontier at Hank Morus Gymnasium.

NEW MATAMORAS — Frontier junior Tanner Bills finished with game-highs of 11 points and 10 rebounds here Friday night inside Hank Morus Gymnasium, but it wasn’t quite enough as the host Cougars were upended by Waterford, 34-32, in what was the season opener for both programs.

It was evident from the outset both teams hadn’t been able to gel much due to lost time thanks to COVID-19 quarantine. In fact, Waterford head man Tom Simms was absent from the bench because of that and the Wildcats turned to assistants Brian Moore and Chad Augenstein.

“We had several first week quarantined, but we are still out of sequence,” admitted Cougar boss Roger Kirkpatrick, whose team was tied at intermission 12-all as FHS shot 4 of 24 with WHS going just 3 of 24, including missing all eight attempts from downtown. “We did not shoot the ball very well.

“We missed a lot of bunnies. We’re young and we lost three seniors last year and it’s going to take a while for some of the younger kids to develop some confidence. I looked at the shot chart in the first half. We should’ve been up eight, but Waterford played hard like they always do. It was a dogfight.”

The Wildcats, who were supposed to play host on Tuesday to Alexander but will return to action next Friday at South Gallia, opened the second half with consecutive buckets. Wade Smith canned a 12-foot jumper via a Jude Huffman assist and then Holden Dailey, who had a game-high five steals, grabbed a rebound in mid-air and kissed it in for a 16-12 lead.

Bills followed with a trio of made free throws and the Cougars took their third lead of the game when Jake Gutberlet assisted on Walter Hendershot’s strong take to the hole. However, Smith made 3 of 4 charity stripe tosses and Luke Teters, who had a team-high 10 counters, drained a pull-up jumper with three seconds to go for a 21-17 cushion entering the final eight minutes.

Frontier, which plays Tuesday at Bridgeport, watched the visitors open the fourth on a 10-4 spurt to take what looked like a commanding 31-21 advantage with 3:30 remaining. Teters had three made field goals, which included the first bucket of the stanza as Jude Huffman raced toward the Wildcat bench and saved the ball by throwing it over his head right to an open Teters. Following a Lucas Cox lay-in for the Cougars, which made it 23-21, Teters returned the favor with an assist to Jude Huffman, who was all alone on the block.

After a Grant McCutcheon steal and lay-in, Frontier called timeout down 27-21. Teters added two more field goals before Hendershot had two baskets sandwiched between a Breckin Hoff 3. A Dailey made free throw pushed Waterford back ahead 32-28, but Tice Curtis managed to kiss in a corner trifecta to cut it to one with 63 seconds left.

Jacob Huffman’s two free throws were countered by one made foul shot from Hoff with 16.1 to go and after Teters failed to convert two freebies, the Cougars had a chance to go for the tie or win. Bills drove the lane and tried for a lay-in, but after the ball went off the glass it rolled off the rim.

With 2.8 remaining, Dailey had two foul shots to ice it. Despite missing both, he got his own rebound to seal the victory.

“We’ve been on Facetime with him already,” admitted coach Augenstein, who got seven points apiece from Smith and Dailey along with nine caroms each by Teters and Dailey. “He’s blown up our phones. We know what to expect from him. I think he was coaching from there with us the whole time. He was watching our live feed. He’s geared up and ready to go.

“He’s got the notes and knowing what we are going to work on from here on with these guys. For what they’ve went through it was great. From where they started, they’ve had 14 days off, come in for four days and just starting all over again. We just started back up Monday so this is big for us.”

Waterford, which won the turnover battle 16-15, also held a 37-28 edge on the glass. That included 15 offensive rebounds. Both teams shot 25% with the visitors going 11 of 44 and the Cougars hitting 10 of 40.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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