PDT Sports Contributor
JACKSON – For a while, it seemed like a storybook ending was bound to happen at Jackson High School Thursday evening.
Unfortunately for the South Webster Jeeps, a couple of bad bounces prevented that storybook ending from happening as the Waterford Wildcats knocked the Jeeps out of postseason play for the second year in a row by a 44-42 margin in a Division IV District Final.
Kristie Johnson said that she was proud of the attitude and the effort that the girls put in throughout the game and the season.
“(I’m) just proud of our work ethic, proud of our girls, and I’m proud of our defense,” an emotional Johnson said. “(We) had some mistakes and this is one of those nights where shots didn’t fall.”
Cheyenne Weakley was among one of the many players on South Webster who stepped up throughout the night for the Jeeps.
After falling behind 9-2 early in the first, Weakley would get hot as she scored 10 of South Webster’s remaining 12 points in the quarter to allow the Jeeps to tie the contest at 14 apiece by the end of the frame.
Johnson was overjoyed with Weakley’s performance during the game and said that it was “the game of her life” as the sophomore guard would score 20 of South Webster’s 42 points in the contest.
“… She’s really the reason why we were even in that game,” Johnson said. “She did an incredible job. (I’m) so proud of her.”
“… This will help build her confidence tremendously. I’m just proud of her and what she accomplished this year. Hopefully, it will carry over into next year and we’ll keep going and keep plugging away.”
The two teams would go back and forth throughout the second frame as the Jeeps would take a three-point lead to start the quarter after Weakley hit her third 3-pointer of the contest on the first possession of the quarter.
However, the Wildcats would storm back with a 9-1 run to end the quarter as Randee Seevers scored five of her six points on the night in the frame to put Waterford up by a 23-18 count at halftime.
Both teams would trade baskets throughout the third quarter as Weakley’s six points were matched by Regan Porter and Mariah Starkey, as the two would add four points apiece to keep the lead at a five-point margin entering the final frame of play.
The Wildcats would jump on South Webster to start the fourth and final frame as the Wildcats went on a 6-1 run to push the lead to a 39-29 advantage.
However, the Jeeps had one final push left in them as South Webster began coming back slowly from that deficit before Hall kicked it into overdrive.
The sophomore floor general led a frantic comeback as the Jeeps took advantage of Waterford’s missed free throw opportunities down the stretch (2-9 over the last two minutes of the game) to cut the lead from 10 down to a single point with just under 35 seconds left in the contest.
South Webster would have several chances to tie or win the game as several frantic efforts by both teams to dive for the loose ball turned in the Jeeps’ favor. However, South Webster was not able to convert each effort into a basket.
With less than 10 seconds left, South Webster had one final chance to go for the tie or the win.
After Seevers made the second of two free throws to put Waterford up by a 44-42 tally, Hall received the ball in the backcourt and got to within four feet of the rim before launching a runner with two seconds on the clock, where the ball would glance off of the back iron as time expired to set the final margin.
Hayley Giles’ efforts were a big reason why the Jeeps had an opportunity to tie the contest in the closing seconds as the junior played a major role in keeping possessions alive for South Webster throughout the contest.
“She dove after that loose ball and hit it off (Waterford) and we ended up getting the ball back,” Johnson said. “She’s a hustler. She works her tail off and gave us that spark we needed in the game.”
Johnson said that the hardest part of her job is bidding the seniors farewell and that was no different with this senior class as Courtney Blanton, Corey Sherman and Haley Potters played in their final contests as Jeeps.
“We are 19-4 and there is no way that we could have gotten there without the leadership of my seniors,” an emotional Johnson said. “Without Courtney’s defense, (Haley) Potters’ rebounding and (Corey) Sherman’s vocal leadership, we would have never gotten here.
“… It was their team. We say every year at this time; it’s your team now, you’ve got to lead (the group), and I think they did a great job of being leaders. They were our leaders all year, and just hate how I’ve got to tell them bye.”
With the victory, Waterford will move on to play Reedsville Eastern in the regional semifinals, which will be held at Jackson High School on March 6th. The Eagles are the top-ranked team in the state in the Division IV polls.
The winner of that contest will move on to the regional finals, which will be held at Pickerington North High School on March 8th.