District champs: Waterford edges South Webster 44-42 in title tilt

JACKSON – Things got scary for Waterford down the home stretch, but in the end, the Lady Wildcats did just enough to nip South Webster 44-42 in Thursday night’s district final game at Jackson High School.

Waterford held a seemingly comfortable 8-point lead, 43-35, with just a minute and 43 seconds remaining in the game.

That’s when the Lady Jeeps began a furious comeback attempt. Following misses on the front ends of two 1-and-1 opportunities at the free throw line by Waterford, Kacie Hall and Haley Giles each knocked down baskets to cut the deficit to four with 55 seconds left. Then, Hall struck again with a timely 3-pointer to bring the Jeeps within one, 43-42, with 40 seconds remaining.

Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding was fouled on the ensuing possession and made 1-of-2 at the line to put Waterford up 44-42.

With 10 seconds left, Hall attempted to tie the game but had her shot attempt blocked and rebounded by Regan Porter. Porter was fouled and missed both free throws, but South Webster could not get a clean look at the basket to end the game and give Waterford it seconds district title in as many years.

“It’s great,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close. “It’s one of those things?there’s a lot of changeover from year to year and one thing remains the same – these kids are resilient. They want to win. It makes it easy to coach when they want it.”

Waterford wanted this one badly.

“We’ve had some disappointing losses this year and we didn’t win the league for the first time in nine years,” Close said. “The kids have been down at times? I told them ‘This is what it’s about. You’ve just got to forget about all that and focus on the tournament right now. They’re really enjoying it. They’re having a good time and they’re playing hard.”

Porter led Waterford’s offensive attack with 19 points on 9-of-12 from the floor. She also grabbed a team-best six boards.

“We knew we had to get Regan the ball,” Close said. “We knew that Regan was key and we knew they were probably gonna take Dani (Drayer) out of the game.

“Down the stretch, we got some big plays. We got Regan the ball when we needed to and she got the buckets. All around, a great team effort.”

Cheyenne Weekly hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 20 points for South Webster. Hall added 12 markers and a game-high nine caroms for the Jeeps.

Waterford held South Webster to just five field goals and 18 points in the first half to go up 23-18.

Layups by Porter and Mariah Starkey built the Waterford lead to 27-19 midway through the third period, but Weekly drained a long 2-pointer and then a trey to make it a 5-point game, 29-24.

Waterford answered with back-to-back baskets by Porter and Hilverding to stretch the lead to nine, but South Webster scored the final four points of the quarter to make the score 33-28.

The Lady ‘Cats opened the fourth quarter on a 6-1 run, led by five points from Porter, to go up by 10, 39-29.

Later, a layup by Taylor Shockweiler cut it to a 7-point game, but Porter would answer with a layup off an assist from Hannah Dailey to stretch the lead back to nine. South Webster then scored nine of the game’s final 11 points, but it wasn’t enough to oust the ‘Cats.

Waterford shot an even 50 percent (18-for-36) in the game while holding the Lady Jeeps to 33.3 percent (14-for-42).

“Defensively, we did a nice job except for (Weekly),” Close said.

“They’re a good penetrating team and we knew that they penetrated and they liked to kick and take it to the hole. I thought we did a really nice job of shutting that down.”

Both teams shot poorly from the foul line. South Webster going 9-for-18 while Waterford hit just six shots in 17 tries at the charity stripe.

“We could’ve made it a little easier on ourselves,” Close said. “But we hung in there. The kids didn’t hang their heads. They stayed strong and did what we had to do to get a win.”

The Wildcat (18-7) now will face the Eastern Lady Eagles in a regional semifinal game at Jackson next Thursday. Waterford lost to Eastern, the TVC-Hocking champions, twice during the regular season and will look to exact some revenge.