WATERFORD, Ohio — Round one of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division heavyweight bout goes to the Waterford Lady Wildcats.
Waterford outscored the visiting Eastern Lady Eagles 20-6 in the first quarter of play and never looked back as the Lady Wildcats claimed a 55-44 win at Waterford Elementary School Thursday night.
“We got off to a good start and they kept making runs at us and we kept answering,” said Waterford girls’ basketball coach Jerry Close.
In the first eight minutes, the Lady Wildcats proved that they had come to play basketball against the team that ended Waterford’s 48-game league winning streak last year, and also eliminated Waterford in the tournament.
“Offensively and defensively everyone played their role and when everyone does that, things fall into place,” said Waterford senior Emily Brown, who had 19 points and five rebounds.
In front of an energetic, capacity crowd the teams played for all they were worth, knowing that the league title will likely come down to those two schools.
“It’s hard not to play with intensity when you have the community we have,” Brown said.
Brown scored the first six points of the game for Waterford, sandwiched around a three-pointer by Eastern’s Jenna Burdette, as the Lady ’Cats never trailed against their arch-nemesis.
In the first eight minutes of play the Lady Wildcats were 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 10-for-11 from the free throw line, including a 8-for-9 effort at the stripe from Brown. Conversely, Eastern was just 2-of-12 from the field and 1-for-4 at the stripe in the first quarter.
“Real rough. Real ugly,” said Eastern girls’ basketball coach John Burdette. “There wasn’t a lot of defense being played, not good defense anyway.”
Kaitlin Pottmeyer became the first Waterford girl to score other than Brown when she knocked down a layup off Brown’s assist with 4:10 to play in the first, giving the Lady ’Cats an 8-3 advantage.
Eastern wouldn’t cut the deficit under four the rest of the first period, and trailed 20-4 when Hannah Brown hit a jumper off an assist from Janelle Pugh with 15 seconds in the opening stanza.
Jenna Burdette’s bucket with six seconds left set the first quarter score, and while the Lady Eagles would cut the lead under 10, they could never get any closer than seven.
“Our defense did a really good job,” said Waterford junior Chelsey Paxton, who had 10 points and five boards.
Pugh’s basket off an assist from Olivia Sprague 13 seconds into the second quarter put Waterford ahead 22-6, but it also sparked some life in the Lady Eagles.
Eastern went on an 8-2 run to cut the margin down to eight, 24-16, on a basket from Jenna Burdette, who led all players with 27 points but also 10 turnovers, with 3:52 to play before the break.
The Lady Eagles cut the margin down to seven on another basket from Jenna Burdette with 3:17 in the first half, but Waterford answered down the stretch as Hannah Offenberger hit a jumper to spur the Lady Wildcats on a 5-2 run to close out the half.
Waterford’s play in the second quarter was done completely without Emily Brown, who picked up her second foul late in the first quarter after accounting for 12 points in the opening stanza.
“We had different players step up,” Close said. “That’s part of the total team effort. Everybody has to be involved. There’s not one or two of us that can carry us.”
Leading 30-20 at the break, Waterford had forced Eastern into 14 turnovers while committing just eight. More importantly, the Lady ’Cats were 12-of-20 from the free throw line opposed to 3-of-7 for Eastern.
“I think they were just getting frustrated with how we were running the ball,” Emily Brown said of the free throws.
For the first time in several years, Waterford did not rely on an aggressive pressure defense to create the offense. Instead, it was a steady, patient attack that led to wide open layups and recovery fouls for points.
“In practice that’s what we’ve really been working on, is patience,” Paxton said.
Staying patient had Waterford rebuilding a 14 point lead, 36-22, when Paxton converted a layup off Brown’s assist with 6:08 to play in the third quarter.
Eastern would rebound once again to cut into the deficit, but couldn’t get it below 10 in the third and the Lady Wildcats led 45-31 heading into the final stanza when Brooke Drayer hit a jumper in the lane with 13 seconds left in the period.
Down by 14, Eastern struggled to find life in the final stanza, turning to its standout guard for offensive production. Jenna Burdette’s three-pointer off an assist from Jordan Parker made the deficit just nine points, 50-41, with 2:38 to play, but the Lady Eagles could get no closer as Waterford hit three free throws in the final two minutes of play and got another easy layup from Paxton to hold off the charge.
“When we executed and we did things right everybody becomes effective,” John Burdette said. “We just weren’t effective (Thursday) night.”
After getting 1-of-2 free throws from Drayer with 20.8 seconds left to make the score 55-43, Jenna Burdette proceeded to hit 1-of-2 with 18.7 remaining to set the final score.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but that was a great early season test and they answered the bell,” Close praised.
With both teams having players in foul trouble, minutes off the bench became huge as Waterford made the key plays at the right times.
“The little plays are what our team builds off of,” Paxton said.
Round two of the bout takes place Jan. 19 at Eastern.
“We’ve just got to stay on task and stay prepared,” Emily Brown said. “If we all continue to play as a team, play together, we’ll be just fine.”
Kevin Pierson is a sports writer for the Marietta Times in Marietta, Ohio.
Waterford 55, Eastern 44
E 6-14-11-13 — 44
W 20-10-15-10 — 55
EASTERN (1-1, 1-1 TVC Hocking): Brenna Holter 1 0-2 2, Jordan Parker 1 0-0 2, Jenna Burdette 9 5-8 27, Katie Keller 1 0-0 2, Kelsey Meyers 0 0-0 0, Maddie Rigsby 4 0-0 8, Haley Gillian 0 0-0 0, Savannah Hawley 1 0-1 3, Gabby Hendrix 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17 5-11 44. Three-point goals: 5 (Burdette 4, Hawley).
WATERFORD (3-0): Hannah Offenberger 1 0-0 2, Chelsey Paxton 5 0-2 10, Brooke Drayer 3 3-5 10, Emily Brown 4 11-13 19, Kaitlin Pottmeyer 1 2-2 4, Hannah Brown 2 1-3 5, Olivia Sprague 0 0-0 0, Janelle Pugh 2 0-0 4, Hannah Dailey 0 1-4 1, Alicia Donahue 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 17-28 55. Three-point goals: 1 (Drayer).