WATERFORD — A two-hour bus ride to Washington County, an early 9-0 deficit, a 20-turnover opening half, and the wrong side of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule for tournament tilts to close on.
Unfortunately for the South Webster Lady Jeeps, that was their Thursday night in one fell swoop —as the fifth-seeded Lady Jeeps fell behind quickly and could never keep pace with Waterford, losing 63-30 in a Division IV district semifinal inside Waterford Elementary’s Cooper Annex.
That’s right — as it was a long trip over to Waterford, and even longer night on the hardwood against the fourth-seeded and always-tough Wildcat club.
For starters, history wasn’t on South Webster’s side against the Lady Wildcats, which have played the Lady Jeeps in now seven tournament meetings within the last decade.
Waterford, the Division IV state champion in 2016 sandwiched between a state runner-up appearance the year before and another Final Four berth the year after, won them all against the Lady Jeeps prior to Thursday —and did so again en route to another district championship game appearance.
Waterford, in fact, is the winner of 11 consecutive sectional titles under veteran head coach Jerry Close.
Of those first six meetings, three had come in regional semifinal matchups and the other three in district finals —meaning this was the earliest in the tournament in the last 11 years that the two have squared off.
And for South Webster, the outcome was the same — its season ended in late February or early March by the Lady Wildcats.
Waterford scored the opening nine points in a matter of two minutes, being physical with and too fast for the young Lady Jeeps — and pressuring them into six turnovers in the opening two-and-a-half.
The closest South Webster was in the final 29 minutes was a trio of seven-point (9-2, 11-4 and 13-6) deficits —as the Lady Wildcats limited the Jeeps to only single digits in all four stanzas.
For those numbers junkies out there, South Webster was guilty of 20 first-half turnovers, part of 27 for the entire game.
They scored 30 points and grabbed 30 rebounds — but with turnovers being that high, and approaching your point total, it’s not a winning formula.
In fact, Waterford standout junior Cara Taylor —with a game-high 27 points on eight field goals including two three-pointers and 9-of-13 freebies — almost outscored South Webster by herself.
The Wildcats, with Taylor and Mackenzie Suprano partnering up for five steals apiece, made off with 15 thefts of the Jeeps.
“The turnovers really hurt us early. We would actually beat their pressure to a certain point, maybe halfcourt, but then we would try to get too aggressive and try and throw over the top or force the ball into a situation where it wasn’t there. It was really difficult. We could never dig our way out of that hole,” said SWHS Ryan Dutiel. “They (Wildcats) are very quick, they play very physical. It was actually insane how physical the game got. Everything took too much out of us. A two-hour bus ride, then just got in an early hole and could never get out and get where we wanted to be.”
The biggest scoring differential by quarter came in the second —when Waterford won it 20-6 to balloon its advantage to 38-14 at halftime.
Bri Claxon scored the Lady Jeeps’ only field goal, and made 3-of-4 free throws — along with a split of foul shots by Bella Claxon — for their only period points.
Waterford doubled up the Lady Jeeps in total field goals 22-11, and sank six three-point goals — compared to South Webster’s lone make by Bri Claxon.
It also didn’t help that the Lady Jeeps only shot 31-percent on 11-of-35, while the Lady Wildcats were 22-of-47 for a 47-percent clip.
Suprano, who is just as fast if not quicker than her teammate Taylor, tallied two triples and six total field goals —and scored on an old-fashioned three-point play in the fourth quarter towards 15 points.
“Both Taylor and Suprano are quick guards and can run the floor so well. You can tell that they’ve played a lot of basketball together,” said Dutiel. “They instinctively feed off each other and cut and know exactly where the other is at.”
Only four Lady Jeeps scored — paced by Bri Claxon with 17 on six total baskets and 4-of-6 charity tosses.
Bella Claxon had a fourth-quarter basket and three made free throws, while Faith Maloney and Skylar Zimmerman made two baskets apiece for four points.
Maloney muscled her way for nine rebounds, despite the Lady Wildcats winning the boards battle 41-30.
With the loss, South Webster is 14-8 — although a Southern Ohio Conference Division II game at division champion Wheelersburg is unlikely to be made up.
The young Lady Jeeps, with sole senior Liz Shupert, did take that next step in capturing a sectional championship —their first since the 2016-17 campaign.
“Two years ago we were 10-12 and last year we were 12-11, so every year of the last three have been an improvement. Liz (Shupert) has been just a blessing to have in the program. She and Bri both were the team captains. Next year, four of our starters are coming back. We’re going to take some of these experiences this year and go from there, and hopefully be real competitive in the league. We have a lot of kids coming back, and hopefully with this summer it will be different from last year,” said Dutiel. “None of these girls got to go to camp together, they didn’t get to play with each other on the court until the third week of November because they were playing in the regionals in volleyball. Six days after the finishing the regionals in volleyball, we were playing Notre Dame at home in the first game. But I’m just thankful for each and every one of these girls this year. They gave me 110-percent. We overcame two (coronavirus) quarantines and advanced to the district tournament, and hopefully next year we’ll go further and cut more nets down.”
Waterford, which raised its record to 17-6, will play for the Division IV district championship on Saturday against top-seeded Notre Dame — a 44-22 doubled-up winner over Green on Thursday night in another semifinal bout.
Tip time for Saturday’s district championship is set for 1 p.m. at Vinton County High School.
South Webster 8 6 9 7 — 30
Waterford 18 20 11 14 — 63
SOUTH WEBSTER 30 (14-8)
Faith Maloney 2 0-0 4, Liz Shupert 0 0-1 0, Brooklyn Blanton 0 0-0 0, Bri Claxon 6 4-6 17, Kerith Wright 0 0-0 0, Skylar Zimmerman 2 0-6 4, Riley Raynard 0 0-0 0, Bella Claxon 1 3-8 5; TOTALS 11 7-21 30; Three-point field goals: 1 (Bri Claxon 1)
WATERFORD 63 (17-6)
Cara Taylor 8 9-13 27, Lily Franchino 1 1-2 3, Mackenzie Suprano 6 1-1 15, Laykin Jones 2 0-0 5, Alayna Jones 0 0-0 0, Madison Hiener 1 2-2 4, Kari Carney 1 0-0 2, Riley Schweikert 3 0-0 7; TOTALS 22 13-18 63; Three-point field goals: 6 (Cara Taylor and Mackenzie Suprano 2 apiece, Laykin Jones and Riley Schweikert 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved