Four-straight years South Webster has made the trip from its home on Route 140 to the Division I high school east of Columbus for a regional semifinal contest and for four-straight seasons — culminating with a 66-41 loss to Waterford on Thursday — the Lady Jeeps were eliminated.
On Thursday the Lady Jeeps, led by senior Kayla Cook, faced a Waterford team boasting the other Division IV Associated Press Player of the Year in Sina King.
King led all scorers with 28 points and 15 rebounds while Cook scored 25 points with four rebounds, but Waterford’s main advantages were depth and a phenomenal first quarter.
The Lady Wildcats were able to go much deeper into their bench than South Webster, keeping players fresh despite playing a taxing press defense.
On top of that, Waterford outscored South Webster 24-6 in the first quarter.
“I think they wore down,” Waterford coach Jerry Close said. “That was the key to the turnovers. They just were making passes they were making earlier and getting away with and we were able to step in front of them in the first quarter because we were a little fresher than they were. That was probably the big key in the fourth quarter is we were a little fresher.”
Along with King’s performance, Emily Brown scored 21 points with 11 rebounds for the Lady Wildcats and Brooke Drayer scored eight points.
South Webster’s No. 2 scorer in the contest was freshman Katie Hanes with seven points and seven rebounds.
South Webster coach Kristie Johnson acknowledged the first quarter deficit was too much to make up.
“You can’t have a bad quarter in tournament time, especially at this level, and we did,” Johnson said. “We worked on the press all week… I don’t know whether it was jitters. I don’t know. We just couldn’t handle it. They’re an excellent team.”
After the first quarter, the Lady Jeeps seemed to find their groove. South Webster outscored Waterford 15-9 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Cook scored six of the Lady Jeeps’ points during a 9-2 run as South Webster cut the deficit to nine at 41-32.
“We started playing and started settling in a little bit,” Johnson said. “As for scoring, except for there at the end, we were right with them. That first quarter just killed us.”
Waterford sealed the contest with a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter.
The game was the last for five Lady Jeep seniors — Cook, Taylor Queen, Kendra Clark, Natosha Blanton and Hannah Montgomery.
Cook will be headed off to the University of Cincinnati to continue her basketball career and was the only Lady Jeep to score in double figures — single-handedly keeping South Webster alive in the contest.
“It just shows what kind of player she is,” Johnson said. “She has so much heart. You have good athletes and then you have those that have not only all the talent in the world but have the heart to go out and give it all they’ve got.”
Cook and the other seniors came as freshmen into a program that went 2-19 the year before to revive the program.
“I’m so proud of (the seniors),” Johnson said. “I’m proud of all of them… I wish them all the best of luck. They’ve got their lives ahead of them. They’re great kids, all five of them. I wouldn’t trade anything for the hours I’ve spent with them.”
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Webster 6 15 12 8 - 41
Waterford 24 9 12 21 - 66
South Webster - Messer 1 2 5, Clark 0 1 1, Queen 1 0 3, Hanes 3 0 7, Cook 10 2 25. Totals 15 5 41.
Waterford - West 1 0 3, Drayer 3 0 8, Bosner 2 2 6, Brown 8 5 21, King 10 8 28. Totals 24 16 66.
3-pointers - South Webster 6 (Cook 3, Messer, Queen, Hanes); Waterford 3 (Drayer 2, West)
Records - South Webster 18-6; Waterford 21-3