BELPRE - After losing by 30 points plus earlier this season at Waterford, host Belpre almost turned the tables on the visiting Wildcats Thursday night, taking Waterford all the way to the final minute before falling 76-70 in a TVC Hocking Division girls basketball game.
In a nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth contest throughout, the Golden Eagles, now 14-3, used a trio of treys by Lexus Cunningham, Jackie Cunningham and Sierra Barker in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to either force a tie or take the lead.
But Regan Porter was the heroine for Waterford in the last period, tallying 12 points to not let her team knuckle under to Belpre. After Barker's 3-ball gave the Golden Eagles a 66-65 lead, Porter quickly canned two hoops for a 69-66 advantage with 2:32 to play, and added a foul shot at 2:03 for a 70-68 lead before a Lexus Cunningham bucket at 1:09 again knotted the count at 70-all.
Then a 6-0 run to the finish by Waterford sealed the deal for the visitors on a basket by Dani Drayer, followed by four free throws in the final 38.8 seconds, two each by Taylor Hilverding and Mariah Starkey, to improve to 11-6.
Belpre led throughout most of the first quarter, at one time holding a 19-10 advantage. But the Wildcats battled back in the second stanza, retaking the lead at 27-26 on Hilverding's three-point play at the 4:32 mark. However, the Golden Eagles then went on a 10-2 run up to the halftime horn on a pair of treys by Katelyn Hughes and two baskets by Cheyenne Barker to forge a 36-31 lead.
In the third period, treys from Hughes and Cheyenne Barker followed by a three-point play by Hughes lifted Belpre into a 45-37 lead at 4:40. But Waterford fought back to take a 48-47 edge on Drayer's 3-ball from the corner at 2:47 and another hoop from the left wing at 1:27 to go up 54-49, only to watch Belpre close to within 54-53 at the quarter break.
For the game, Porter poured in 20 points, Drayer netted 17 (including three treys) and Hilverding added 14 for Waterford, while Belpre's Hughes led all scorers Thursday with 22 points (including four treys), followed by teammates Cheyenne Barker and Jackie Cunningham with 11 each, and Sierra Barker with 10.
Despite the loss, Belpre head coach Scott Miller was pretty well pleased with his team's effort Thursday night. "I saw a lot of desire on our part out there tonight," he said. "I'm proud of my kids. We made some mistakes out there, but Waterford's a good team. And in the end, we got some key shots and key looks by the people we wanted shooting, but they just didn't drop."