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Waterford jumps over Jeeps

Photo by Jordan Holland Waterford’s Mackenzie Suprano, center, dribbles between South Webster’s Bella Claxon, left, and Bri Claxton, right, during Thursday’s district semifinal girls basketball game at the Harry Cooper Annex. Waterford won, 63-30.

WATERFORD — Waterford simply outran South Webster in Thursday’s Division IV district semifinal at the Harry Cooper Annex.

Utilizing their diamond-press defense, the Wildcats kept the Jeeps’ offense from getting any type of rhythm and cruised to a 63-30 victory. Waterford (17-6) advanced to the district championship against top-seeded Portsmouth Notre Dame.

Those two teams will play at 7 p.m. Saturday at a neutral site to be determined.

Waterford set the tone quickly Thursday, forcing turnovers on South Webster’s first six possessions. The Jeeps turned it over 27 times in the game, 20 coming in the first half as the Wildcats jumped out to a 38-14 halftime lead.

“We haven’t diamond-pressed a lot this season so I’m sure that’s one thing they didn’t see on film,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close.

“This group the last month has started playing pretty well together. We’re trying different things and the kids are responding well.”

Waterford scored the first nine points of the game before South Webster ever attempted a shot.

Bri Claxon, who led the Jeeps with 17 points and four steals, made a layup with 2:38 left in the first to make it 11-6.

That was as close as the margin would get as Waterford answered with a 7-2 run to close the quarter.

“We tried to get off to that quick start and just hold serve,” Close said. “We did a really nice job with that.”

Cara Taylor was unstoppable for the Wildcats, scoring a game-high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.

She attacked the basket often, going 8 for 17 from the floor and 9 for 13 from the free-throw line.

“Cara never surprises you,” said Close, whose Wildcats were 22 for 47 (46.8%) from the floor. “You just expect something out of Cara every night. Just outran everybody tonight. That Claxon girl is really fast and really good, and we were just beating them up and down the floor.”

Mackenzie Suprano added 15 points, six boards, five steals and three dimes for the Wildcats. Her layup with seven minutes left in the game put Waterford up 30, 53-23. Later, layups by Lakyn Jones and Lily Franchino plus a 3-pointer from Riley Schweikert made it 60-26, the largest lead of the game. Schweikert finished with seven points and seven boards, Franchino had three points, five rebounds and four assists, Madi Hiener tallied four points and four caroms, Kari Carney registered two points and five rebounds and Jones produced five points and three steals.

South Webster, which received four points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Faith Maloney, shot just 31.4% (11 for 35) in the contest. Bella Claxon scored five points and grabbed six boards while Skylar Zimmerman netted four points. The Jeeps finished their season with a 14-8 record.

“They like to play that uptempo (defense),” Close said of his team. “We get beat once in awhile, but we’re starting to rotate well. The thing that hurt us earlier in the season was when we didn’t rotate well and we gave up a lot of easy buckets. They’re figuring things out and getting a little better with it.”

Peaking at the right time, Waterford is seeking its first district title since 2018. The Wildcats will have to play very well to knock off a Notre Dame team which was a regional finalist a year ago.

“I think they’re motivated and they’re figuring out that they can be a really good team when they come together,” Close said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but we’ll be ready.”

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

Peebles 59, Belpre 33

PEEBLES — Belpre kept it close for a half here Thursday night, but Peebles was too strong as the hosts secured a 59-33 Division IV disctrict semifinal victory.

The Golden Eagles, who finished the campaign at 10-12, trailed 13-9 after one and 26-18 at the half, but Ohio state player of the year candidate Jacey Justice took over in the third.

After Belpre limited Justice to just five first-half points, the senior 2,000-plus point scorer exploded for a baker’s dozen in the third as Peebles outscored the Golden Eagles 22-7 in the stanza.

Justice led all scorers with 25 points and teammate Peyton Johnson pitched in 22.

Belpre head coach Chris Murray’s squad watched as Khyleigh Scott, Alyssa Hutchinson and Curstin Giffin played their final game. Halee Williams led the Golden Eagles with 12 points and Giffin chipped in nine.

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