Prep boys basketball: Waterford claims sectional crown

POMEROY – Seventh-seeded Waterford entered Meigs High School as the underdog Wednesday against second-seeded Symmes Valley, but it came out on top as the Wildcats defeated the Vikings 57-40 to earn a Division IV sectional championship.

With the victory, Waterford advances to the district tournament where it will play Sciotoville Tuesday in a semifinal game at the Convo in Athens.

“It’s been the talk of the week just to go to the Convo,” said senior Brian Moore, who notched a game-high 19 points. “That’s what we all strived to do tonight. We played as a team and we came through. We just got a big victory.”

With the game tied at 25-25 at halftime, Waterford pulled away with a 32-15 second half.

“This is what they’re capable of,” said Waterford head coach Tom Simms. “It’s just whether they’re gonna show up or not. But they had their mind set. They wanted to get to the Convo.

“We’re just thrilled that those seniors (Moore, Austin Shriver and Austin Bauerbach) are getting to go to the Convo.”

While the Wildcats shot an impressive 20-for-43 (47 percent) from the floor in the game, the big key was their effort on the defensive end of the floor, recording 12 steals and forcing 24 turnovers.

“I’m gonna be totally honest with you,” Simms said. “Monday and Tuesday, all we practiced was defense. We just worked on defense. I told them our defense was gonna get our offense going.”

Coming out of halftime, Symmes Valley’s Tyler Rowe converted a layup to give the Vikings their final lead of the night, as Waterford went on a 12-0 run to take a 37-27 advantage.

Moore jump-started the rally with a 3-pointer, followed by four straight free throws by Shriver. Moore then recorded a steal which led to a layup and then hit another triple to give Waterford a 10-point cushion before buckets by Austin Baldwin and D.J. Miller cut it to 37-31 to end the period.

In the final stanza, Moore opened with a foul shot before sophomore Tanner Pottmeyer assisted classmate Cody Paxton on a layup to make the score 40-31. After the Vikings got a putback bucket by Dylan Malone, Pottmeyer connected on a deep jumper followed by a layup from junior Eli Strahler and two more freebies from Shriver to extend the lead to 13 points. A free throw by Clayton Tony got Symmes Valley within 12, but that was as close as the Vikings would get, as a pair of buckets by Paxton put the game out of reach at 52-34 with little time left.

“I think (Symmes Valley) underestimated us a little bit,” Shriver said. “We just came in prepared and it was a team effort.”

Along with 19 points, Moore also recorded five rebounds, three assists and six steals. Paxton finished with 15 points and four rebounds, and Shriver notched 12 points and four boards.

The Vikings were led by Rowe’s 10 markers. Baldwin led everyone with seven rebounds.

Last season, roles were reversed, as the Wildcats came in as the higher seed and were upset by the Vikings. However, Waterford wasn’t worried about revenge in the contest, but rather bringing home a sectional crown.

“It means a lot,” Moore said. “We missed it the last three years that I’ve been in school. We finally got it when I’m a senior, so it makes me very proud to support the Waterford community like this.”

The Vikings jumped out to a 14-9 lead to begin the contest, but the Wildcats used an 8-2 run to take a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. Shriver and Paxton each scored four points to fuel the stretch.

Waterford took a 21-16 lead after layups by Porter and Strahler opened the second period, but Symmes Valley used a 7-2 run to retake the lead. Moore then found Paxton open under the basket on an inbound pass to tie things up going into the break.

With the victory, Waterford improved to 9-13, while Symmes Valley ended the season at 12-11.

“They’re just thrilled to go to the Convo,” said Simms of his squad. “I’m thrilled for them. It’s just a great thing for them.”