Wildcat action: Waterford girls claim district championship

ATHENS – Waterford freshman Regan Porter knew exactly what she wanted her teammates to get her for her 15th birthday Sunday evening – a district championship.

“She let us know every day in the week it was her birthday,” laughed Waterford senior Brooke Drayer, who recorded 15 points.

The Lady Wildcats didn’t let Porter down, and she didn’t fare too badly herself on her birthday.

“I was pretty pumped,” said Porter, who posted 10 points and 15 rebounds.

After a sluggish start, the Waterford girls took control of the floor to claim their seventh district title in eight years with a 56-37 victory over the South Webster Lady Jeeps at the OU Convocation Center in Athens Sunday night.

“It (district title) doesn’t ever get old, and this was a pretty hard fought one,” said Waterford girls’ basketball coach Jerry Close.

To claim their seventh title in eight years, the Lady Wildcats had to overcome a slow start to the contest that saw them shoot just 4-of-15 from the field in the first quarter while committing eight turnovers.

Waterford trailed the bulk of the first quarter, with the Lady Wildcats finding themselves down 6-2 with 3:24 to play in the opening stanza when Lady Jeep freshman Kacie Hall completed an old-fashioned three-point play.

It was still a three-point South Webster lead with less than 1:30 in the first period. But then Waterford turned to senior Chelsey Paxton and freshman guard Dani Drayer to spark the offense as Drayer’s three off Paxton’s assist put the Lady ‘Cats in front to stay, 10-8, with 33 seconds in the first.

Porter hit her first bucket of the game with 7:47 in the second quarter, and Waterford rolled out to a 17-10 lead when Brooke Drayer, the Lady Wildcats’ leading scorer, hit her first bucket with 3:51 before the break.

South Webster, however, had no intentions of backing down and quickly transformed the game back into a one-possession contest with Courtney Blanton scoring in the paint with 3:22 in the half. The Lady Jeeps constantly cut into Waterford’s leads over the course of the night, but could never string enough points together to overtake the Lady Wildcats.

“We would get up 12 or 15, and the next thing you know it’s back down,” Close said.

Faced with just a two point advantage, Paxton collected an offensive rebound and putback basket to spur Waterford on a 10-1 lead to close out the first half, capped by Sam Farley’s layup as time expired.

Through the first 16 minutes of play, Paxton, Porter and Dani Drayer had accounted for 23 of Waterford’s 27 points, and the trio would be joined by Brooke Drayer in double figures for the game as the quartet took turns leading the offense.

“That (balanced scoring) is what we’ve got to have. Brooke draws a lot of attention, a lot of junk defenses. The rest of the girls are going to have to step up,” Close said.

Sunday night, one of those girls stepping up happened to be the birthday girl.

In the first half of play, Porter by herself had accounted for as many rebounds as South Webster had as a team and she finished the game with 15, four more than the Lady Jeeps managed in the contest. Included in that figure were six offensive rebounds, as Waterford collected 16 opposed to just four for South Webster.

“She (Porter) was a beast on the boards,” Close praised.

Paxton started the scoring in the second half, hitting a layup off Dani Drayer’s assist for a 29-16 Waterford lead. Paxton then assisted Taylor Hilverding 26 seconds later as Waterford opened up a 13 point advantage after three quarters of play, with Brooke Drayer having managed just six points.

“Our defense was alright. On the offensive end, Brooke was pretty well taken up so we has a team had to step up,” Paxton said.

As good as the Lady Jeeps were defensively, they couldn’t keep the Lady Wildcats’ totally quiet, and as they attempted to make a run in the fourth quarter, Brooke Drayer came alive, scoring nine points in the final stanza.

“They had pretty good defense. Their pressure was up in our face,” Brooke Drayer said.

That defense had Waterford shooting just 15-of-38 through three quarters, but the Lady Jeeps couldn’t keep it going in the final period as the Lady Wildcats hit 6-of-8 shots from the field and were 3-for-4 from the stripe.

Hall’s circus basket in the lane with 4:30 to play cut the Waterford lead to 11, but Brooke Drayer answered with five straight points as Waterford scored nine straight to pull away.

“We got some separation there at the end,” Close said.

A pair of free throws by Hayley Giles with 1:39 to play for South Webster proved to be the final points in the contest, as the Lady Wildcats prepared to cut down the nets again. Last year was the first time in seven years the Waterford girls did not win the district title, as they were eliminated by the Eastern Lady Eagles.

For seniors Paxton, Brooke Drayer and Hannah Offenberger, it’s their third district championship.

“It’s kind of another chance at it,” Brooke Drayer said. “Everyone doubted us, and we made it.”

“It means more to you whenever you’re a senior and you get here,” Paxton said.