Another regional semi for Waterford girls

When the Waterford High girls basketball team takes on Newark Catholic at Pickerington High School North at 8 p.m. today, it will be the team’s seventh regional appearance in the last eight years.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close. “One of our goals was to get back to Pickerington.”

But the Wildcats aren’t settling for just the appearance.

“Hopefully we play well,” Close said.

“They’re (Newark Catholic) big. They’ve got two 6-foot-2 girls and a 5-11 wing. They play a 2-3 zone. They’ve got four sophomores and one senior, so they’re a fairly young teams. They’ve got a nice post game. We’ll have to defend their post play.”

The Green Wave enter the contest with a 24-2 record. They are fresh off a 52-39 district final win over Shekinah Christian on Saturday, and are averaging a 19-point margin of victory in four tournament games.

The Wildcats (19-6) have a pretty impressive tournament trail of their own. Including a 56-37 district final triumph over South Webster Sunday, the ‘Cats have not won a tourney game by less than 14 points.

Catholic is hoping to change that Thursday. In a 52-40 district semifinal win over Gahanna Christian, Kelly Clapper led the Green Wave with 16 points, while Ashleigh Parkinson added 14.

Jill Blacksten, one of NC’s 6-2 post players, contributed six points and eight rebounds in the game. Blacksten, who had missed four straight games with a foot injury, is averaging a double-double on the season and was named the Division IV Central District Player of the Year. Limiting her down low will be important for Waterford.

“The big key is going to be to not let them get the ball inside,” Close said. “We have to keep them from getting inside and getting easy shots.”

While Blacksten was recognized in her district, the Wildcats have a standout of their own in Division IV Southeast District Co-Player of the Year Brooke Drayer. The 5-8 senior guard is averaging 14.7 points per game this season and is the heart and soul of the team.

Fellow senior Chelsey Paxton was a second team All-District honoree and is averaging 8.7 points per game. Paxton, along with sophomore Taylor Hilverding, will likely have the responsibility of matching up with Newark Catholic’s bigs.

Junior Hannah Dailey and freshman Dani Drayer will likely be Waterford’s other two starters. Dani Drayer, along with Hilverding, was a special mention All-District selection.

Also look for senior Hannah Offenberger, junior Randee Seevers and freshman Regan Porter to contribute off the bench.

Close said that shot selection against the Rob Smith-coached Green Wave will be crucial.

“We have to be patient,” Close said. “We’ve got to make sure we take smart shots. We’re gonna have to work the ball around.”

The winner of the contest will advance to the to Division IV regional final against either Reedsville Eastern or Sycamore Mohawk.