Prep boys basketball: Cats fall to Tornadoes

WATERFORD – No storm tears across the plains and wreaks more havoc in a short period of time than a tornado.

In the span of three minutes, a tornado of epic proportions blew through the Harry Cooper Anex, leaving the Waterford Wildcats struggling to clean up the aftermath.

Southern outscored Waterford 16-5 in the third quarter to transform what had been a five-point deficit into a 57-46 win for the Tornadoes at Waterford Elementary Tuesday evening, handing the Wildcats their fifth straight loss.

“Three and a half minutes of that entire game we had a letdown and they got a gap,” said Waterford boys’ basketball coach Tom Simms. “We couldn’t close it.”

All the Tornadoes needed was those three-plus minutes of the third quarter to take complete control of the game.

Southern connected on 7-of-10 shots in the third quarter and rattled off 15 of 17 points, taking its first lead of the game in the process with 6:22 to play in the period.

From there, it was all the Wildcats could do to clean up the debris and claw back into the ball game against a Tornado team that shot 68 percent from the field on 23-of-34 shots.

“When we keep from turning the ball over we’re able to get good looks,” said Southern boys’ basketball coach Jeff Caldwell. “Win on the road at Waterford is always a good win,” he continued.

Turnovers in the first half combined with the Wildcats’ dominance on the boards, particularly offensively, had Waterford looking to cruise to its fifth win of the season and halt a four game losing streak that started with a loss to Federal Hocking.

“We played outstanding against Fed Hock and came up short. They’re fighting themselves mentally,” Simms said.

For two quarters it appeared like the Wildcats would break out of the funk.

Waterford took command of the game early, posting a double-digit lead at 14-4 on a three-pointer from Eli Strahler off Austin Shriver’s assist with 3:31 to play in the first quarter.

The Wildcats would lead 14-6 after one quarter, but watched the lead dwindle down to a single point, 16-15, on Adam Pape’s three for the Tornadoes with 3:04 in the second period. Waterford answered with a basket by Shriver and a three from Strahler, but it was a sign of the brewing storm as the Wildcats led just 21-17 at the break.

At the break, Southern had committed 16 turnovers to Waterford’s eight and had just nine rebounds while the Wildcats had 13, including eight offensively. “We’re getting there,” Caldwell said. ‘Rebounding was a factor too. We gave up a lot of boards there in the first half.”

All the little mistakes by the Tornadoes turned into the storm to start the third quarter, with Southern capitalizing on breakdowns by the Wildcats to take the lead 24-22 on a basket from Pape, who tied with point guard Triston Wolf for a game high 20 points.

Waterford would tie the game once more, on Shriver’s putback basket, but the game quickly got away as Wolf began to assert himself, tallyingg 12 points and seven assists in the second half of play.

“He (Wolf) has been doing a good job for us breaking down the defense,” Caldwell said.

Defensive breakdowns had Waterford trailing by as many as 17, and had Simms removing all his regulars from the floor in favor of the reserves.

The Wildcats would slowly begin to chip away at the deficit in the game’s final four minutes, holding Southern to free throws for better than three minutes, but it was far too little, too late to thwart the outcome.

“We’ve just got to find the offense,” Simms said. “We’ve got to get 32 minutes together like we were.”