Waterford rolls past Eastern, 64-34

Waterford’s Megan Ball (24) goes up for a basket during a high school girls basketball game against Eastern Thursday at the Harry Cooper Annex. Photo by Mike Morrison.

WATERFORD — After advancing to the Final Four in the state of Ohio three consecutive years, the 2017-2018 Waterford Wildcats obviously have some goals in mind as the season nears the midway point.

The 2015-2016 state champs took a giant step towards accomplishing their first goal of repeating once again as Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division champions as they opened up a two-game lead with a dominating 65-34 win over the Eastern Eagles.

Seniors Megan Ball and Alli Kern combined for 40 points as the green and white won their ninth consecutive game.

“It’s a huge win that we’re extremely proud of because they (Eastern) have become such a huge rivalry,” said Ball of the win, which improved Waterford’s TVC record to a perfect 8-0. “They are great competition and a great team skill-wise and just a great all-around team.”

Waterford actually found itself in an early 4-2 hole before Kern knocked down a pair of triples to give her team an 8-4 lead that it would never surrender.

“My teammates were really opening me up and give me great passes,” said Kern, who finished the opening quarter with 10 points. “We were getting good pressure on defense which was giving us a lot of offensive opportunities.”

Waterford forced Eastern into 14 first half turnovers including eight in the opening quarter as they pulled out to a 14-6 lead.

The ‘Cats had their biggest point total of the night in the second quarter when they out-pointed the Eagles 20-9 to open up a 34-15 lead at the break.

Eastern had cut the lead to seven thanks to a three-pointer by Jess Parker but sparked by three-pointers by Ball and Rachael Adams, Waterford scored the final 12 points of the half to push the lead to 19.

Despite the big lead, Waterford head coach Jerry Close felt his squad capable of playing much better than it did.

“Our defense was a little sloppy and I thought we might have been a little rusty out there tonight,” said Close. “We played very hard, we just didn’t execute real well at either end of the court at times. We haven’t played for awhile and it showed a little bit.”

Eastern made a mini-run to open the second half as they strung together a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 36-22, but Waterford put together a 14-2 run to increase their lead to 26 points and cruised the rest of the way to improve to 9-1 on the season.

Ball led all scorers with 22 points but it may have been the rest of her stat sheet that was more impressive.

The Wildcat senior pulled down a game-high 11 boards, blocked five shots, came up with five steals and dished out four assists in the game.

“Defense is what we focus on the most and that’s where we know we have to work the hardest,” said Ball. “Defensive stops turn into offensive points so we know have to play defense first.”

Kern chipped in with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Adams reached double figures with 12.

Eastern (7-5) was led by Elizabeth Collins with 12 points while Madison Williams and Parker chimed in with nine and eight points respectively.

Waterford returns to action Saturday night when they play host to arch-rival Fort Frye.

“We will have to come ready to play against them as well because they are a really good team,” said Kern. “We are going to have to step up but it should be a good game.”