Eastern tops Waterford

JACKSON – Unlike the first two matchups this season, Waterford was able to compete with top-ranked Eastern for most of Thursday’s Division IV regional semfinal game at Jackson High School.

But, like the first two matchups, the result was still a loss for the Wildcats as the Eagles avoided the upset with a 47-30 victory over their TVC-Hocking rivals.

Eastern (24-1) will play for a regional championship Saturday against Newark Catholic in a rematch of last year’s regional title game.

Waterford’s (18-8) season comes to an end, but not before giving Eastern by far its toughest battle of the postseason so far.

“I don’t think there was a lot of people in here that expected this game to be close,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close. “The kids did what they could do, we just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop tonight.”

The Wildcats’ defense performed very well for the majority of the game, holding Eastern to 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) from the floor and forcing 23 turnovers.

Eastern’s D, though, was just a tad better, holding Waterford to just 23.3 percent (10-for-43) shooting, including 13.3 percent (2-for-15) from beyond the arch. The Eagles limited Dani Drayer and Regan Porter, who averaged nearly 27 points combined per game this season, to just five and six markers, respectively. Randee Seevers led the Wildcats with nine points.

Jenna Burdette and Jordan Parker accounted for 38 of Eastern’s 47 points on the night, tallying 20 and 18, respectively. Parker hit a game-high four 3-pointers, including two pivotal treys in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

Porter scored four straight points on back-to-back buckets midway through the first quarter to give Waterford a 6-2 lead. That didn’t last long, though, as Burdette assisted Parker on a 3-ball and later made consecutive jump-shots as Eastern scored the final nine points of the opening period to go up 11-6.

For the first four minutes of the second quarter, the only scoring came on a pair of free throws from Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding and Eastern’s Burdette. At one point during that stretch Eastern committed turnovers on four straight possessions, but Waterford was able to generate any points out of the miscues.

“We’ve got to score,” Close said. “We had a lot of opportunites. (We) missed a lot of layups, missed a lot of free throws. I know it ended up being 17, but it could’ve been a six, eight-point game just as easily.”

Hannah Dailey finally scored the first field goal of the quarter at the 3:23 mark, but Eastern’s Katie Keller quickly answered with a layup to make the score 15-10. The Eagles’ lead stretched to seven, 19-12, by halftime as Erin Swatzel and Burdette each scored a basket.

3-pointers by Burdette and Parker put Eastern up 25-14 early in the second half, but Waterford responded with an 11-4 run to get within 29-25 with three minutes left in the third. Seevers scored six points to lead the rally.

However, just as Waterford was getting into striking distance, Eastern extended its lead back to eight, 33-25, on buckets by Burdette and Swatzel going into the final period.

Dailey assisted Porter on a 2-pointer for the first points of the the quarter, but then Burdette scored five straight points put the eagles up 38-27 with 4:05 left in the game.

Waterford’s last threat was a 3-pointer by Seevers to cut the deficit to eight, but Parker countered with a pair triples to make the score 44-30 with just 1:28 remaining. That was all she wrote.

Waterford graduates five seniors – Dailey, Seevers, Sam Farley, Cassie Reed and Lakin Tolson.