BELPRE -With its starting point guard out of the equation, Waterford still found a way to put together a winning formula in its season opener Monday night at Belpre High School.
The Wildcats forced 35 turnovers, including 17 in the second quarter, and nearly doubled the Golden Eagles in the margin of victory after posting a 61-31 win.
"The second quarter is probably the best quarter we've played after going through the whole preseason," Waterford coach Jerry Close said. "We've been a little rough through the whole preseason, but in the last week we've started to come together and it's nice to see us get off to a good start.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Waterford's Taylor Hilverding grabs a rebound over Belpre's Katelyn Hughes, Hannah Lawrentz and Ashley Jenkins during Monday's 61-31 win over the Golden Eagles.
"Especially playing without Brooke (Drayer) at point guard."
Drayer is Waterford's four-year starter who has been sidelined because of an illness and been relegated to a yogurt and pudding diet since last Wednesday. Taking over her duties was freshman Dani Drayer, who finished with a team-high 11 points to go with four steals and three assists. Teammates Taylor Hilverding and Chelsey Paxton each contributed nine points.
"Dani made some really good reads off the screens," Close continued. "She's played that role in junior high, but she has not had to play it at the varsity level. She did a nice job taking care of things."
Belpre kept the game tight into the early stages of the second quarter as Jackie Cunningham's bucket off an assist from Sierra Barker sliced Waterford's lead to 14-8 with 7:21 remaining before intermission.
Waterford's relentless pressure then began to take effect and the Wildcats outscored the Golden Eagles 22-4 during the next five minutes. The run included a pair of 3-pointers from reserve Randee Seevers.
During one 17-second stretch, the Wildcats scored seven consecutive points.
"We're a little different this year size-wise," Close said. "We have a lot of depth, but it's young depth so it will take us a while to maybe get into a flow of things."
Belpre managed just one field goal in the final seven-plus minutes of the first half and went into the locker room trailing 38-16.
Early foul trouble on several of their post players factored into the Golden Eagles' dilemma. For the game, the Belpre starting lineup accounted for just eight points.
"In a lot of ways, we don't have a group of starters," Belpre coach Scott Miller said. "We have nine or 10 players that I'm going to try and play, and we're still figuring out who they are."
Waterford, which outrebounded Belpre, 49-32, opened its second half scoring with three consecutive putbacks and eventually widened the gap to 52-20 with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Hilverding pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, while Paxton finished with seven boards.
Katelyn Hughes came off the Belpre bench to finish with a team-high nine points and six rebounds, while fellow reserve Hannah Lawrentz added eight points and five boards.
"We played the first half without probably two of our best players because they were in foul trouble," Miller said. "They were in foul trouble because some of our other players made mistakes defensively, which made the other girls vulnerable and they picked up fouls."