MASON, W. Va. — Wahama was right there, seemingly step-for-step, battling the visiting Waterford Wildcats on Friday night.
However, the White Falcons’ offensive fortunes did them few favors, as Wahama had turnover trouble — combined with some easy scoring opportunities gone awry.
The end result was Waterford remaining tied with Trimble atop the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division boys basketball peak, as the Wildcats escaped Wahama with a 54-47 victory.
Combined with Trimble’s 62-61 win over South Gallia on Friday night, the Wildcats and Trimble are both 13-2 in the TVC-Hocking.
Waterford, which never trailed in the game and led for the final 27 minutes and 20 seconds, improved to 15-4.
The White Falcons fell to 7-7 in the TVC-Hocking, part of 7-10 overall.
Speaking of 7-7, that was the game’s only tie with exactly three minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
But, over the next two-and-a-half minutes, Jordan Welch went off for 10 unanswered for Waterford, opening up a double-digit lead that never fellow five the rest of the way.
In the final two minutes and 55 seconds, Wahama was within five twice at 46-41 and 48-43.
However, two turnovers — sandwiched around a missed shot — started a final two minutes in which the Wildcats sank eight one-and-one free throws in a span of 28 seconds.
Wahama head coach Ron Bradley spoke of the White Falcons’ offensive struggles, despite shooting 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“That was the theme all night,” he said. “We would make a good defensive play, then turn around and hand the basketball right back to Waterford. You can’t do that against good teams. We missed a ton of easy ones from two or three-feet too. That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all season. When we do a good job of getting the ball in the basket, we’ve been successful. When we don’t, this is the result.”
With Waterford leading 46-41, the White Falcons forced a turnover — before turning the ball over right back.
The Wildcats were then whistled for a traveling call at the 1:56 mark, but Wahama’s possession resulted in another missed shot and turnover 11 seconds later.
Waterford then ran 56 seconds off the clock, forcing the White Falcons to foul with two fouls to give, before the Wildcats were in the one-and-one.
With 49 seconds to play, Waterford’s Isaac Huffman hit two free throws for a 48-41 lead, as Mason Hicks had a layup to once again trim the deficit to five (48-43).
But Welch went to the stripe six straight times, and knocked down all six for a 54-45 cushion with only 17 seconds to go.
“We had our opportunities. I told the kids what we need to take from tonight is that we can play with these teams and win these kinds of games. But we have to eliminate the turnovers and make easy baskets,” said Bradley. “Waterford is a quality team right at the top of the conference. We shot 65-percent from the field and beat Trimble here. We see flashes of great things, but we have to blend those flashes into all four quarters.”
Welch, with three twos and two threes along with his 6-of-6 free throws, led all scorers with 18 points.
His only other points besides the 10 in the first quarter and six freebies in the last was a third-quarter field goal.
Andrew Theiman netted nine points for Waterford — on four field goals and a free throw.
Huffman had eight points on two field goals and 4-of-4 free throws, while Bryce Hilverding hit two first-half threes.
All five of Waterford’s triples came in the first half, as it led 17-9 after the first quarter, 26-19 at halftime and 36-29 after three periods.
The Wildcats’ largest lead stood at 23-11 with 5:21 left in the second quarter, as Wahama maintained anywhere from a five-to-11 point deficit throughout the second, third and fourth stanzas.
Hicks had 13 points on six field goals and a free throw to pace the White Falcons, as Phillip Hoffman had 12 while Ryan Thomas and Noah Litchfield each scored 10.
Hoffman hit one three and Thomas two, while Nolan Pierce rounded out the scoring with a first-quarter field goal.
Hoffman was 5-of-6 at the line, while Litchfield went 4-of-5.
The White Falcons travel to South Gallia on Monday night and to Waterford on Wednesday night for a pair of TVC-Hocking makeup matchups.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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