WATERFORD, Ohio — For one half the Waterford Wildcats were lights out with the basketball, shooting 53 percent from the field.
It’s a good thing for the Wildcats they had one great shooting half, because the Eastern Eagles made them need every bucket.
Waterford hit 10-of-19 shots in the first half to build a 15-point halftime advantage, and held off a frantic Eastern charge in the second half to pull away for a 51-39 victory at Waterford Elementary School Friday evening.
“Great first half, came out flat the second half, let them get the momentum and then we had to beat them back,” said Waterford boys’ basketball coach Tom Simms.
After shooting 10-for-19 from the floor in the first half while limiting Eastern to 6-of-20 shooting, the Wildcats saw the tables turned somewhat. The Wildcats hit just 5-of-18 shots in the second half while Eastern was slightly better by hitting 9-of-30.
“We just fell behind early and had to scratch and claw. We weren’t very good defensively in the first half,” said Eastern boys’ basketball coach Corey Britton.
Eastern may have struggled on defense, but the Wildcats did not.
Waterford never trailed in the game, and only twice after taking the lead did the Wildcats let the lead dip under four points. The game was never tied after being knotted at 0-0, and the smallest Wildcat lead would be a single point at 4-3.
“The whole game was pretty much about defense,” said Waterford senior Matt West.
The Wildcats defense assured them of building an early lead, as Waterford led 12-5 on a jumper by Shane Kern off an assist from Eric Arnold with 2:28 in the first half. Waterford had 11 assists in the game while Eastern had just six.
“In this game we really saw each other. The last two games we haven’t been communicating really well on the floor,” said Waterford senior Braden Burer.
Eastern would cut the lead down to five, 15-10, after one period of play when Max Carnahan hit a floater with 3 seconds remaining in the stanza.
Carnahan would finish with a game high 18 points, but was just 2-for-8 from the field in the first half and 6-of-17 in the game.
“We always knew where their shooters were. We knew where Carnahan was,” said Waterford senior Austin Hilverding.
The Wildcats got the lead to double figures for the first time, 23-12, midway through the second quarter when Brian Moore drilled a three-pointer off an assist from Austin Shriver with 5:52 before the break.
Out of a timeout called by the Eagles, Waterford still maintained control of the game as West scored off Moore’s assist to spark the Wildcats on a 6-3 run to close out the first half scoring.
It was a 29-15 game at the break when Tate Lang scored for Waterford, chipping in a team high 15 points.
Down by 14 after two quarters of play, the Eagles began making their way back into the game in the third quarter.
“They hit a few shots early which made us force. We can’t force shots,” Moore said.
Eastern outscored Waterford 12-9 in the third quarter to cut the margin down to 11, but showed more important signs of life on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court after a lackluster first half.
Hitting 10-of-19 shots in the first half, Waterford was just 3-for-9 in the third quarter and committed six turnovers in the period after having just five the previous two stanzas combined.
“Our defense the second half was great. We were able to contain dribble penetration and keep them out of the lane,” Britton said.
Eastern’s defense couldn’t quite get the Eagles completely back into the game.
Trailing 38-27 after three, the Eagles cut the margin all the way down to seven points but couldn’t get any closer.
Three times in the second half Eastern hit consecutive field goals after not once hitting back-to-back jumpers in the first half, but every time the Eagles thought they had momentum the Wildcats answered.
“Whenever they started making a run we were able to slow it down and say let’s get a good shot,” Hilverding said.
A three-pointer by Carnahan off an assist from Chris Bissell with 3:14 in regulation cut the deficit under 10 for the first time since Moore’s three-pointer with 5:52 to play in the opening half.
Eastern cut the margin down to seven, 44-37, with 1:55 left on Jacob Parker’s bucket but once again the Wildcats had an answer to regain control and expand the lead.
“We extended it back out when the opportunity arose,” Simms said.
A pair of free throws by Moore made the score 46-37, and Eastern would score just once more when Carnahan hit a jumper with 1:14 to play.
From there the Wildcats hit five free throws to set the final score in a game designated to pay respects to the seven Waterford seniors.
“It’s a home win. It’s what we needed to get for the seniors,” Moore said.
Kevin Pierson is a sports writer for the Marietta Times in Marietta, Ohio.
Waterford 51, Eastern 39
E 10-5-12-12 — 39
W 15-14-9-13 — 51
EASTERN (5-12, 3-11 TVC Hocking): Max Carnahan 6 4-4 18, Christian Amsbary 1 0-0 2, Jacob Parker 3 1-4 7, Chase Cook 1 0-0 2, Kirk Pullins 3 0-0 7, Zakk Heaton 0 0-0 0, Chris Bissell 1 0-0 3, Ethan Stegar 0 0-0 0, Justin Hill 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15 5-8 39. Three-point goals: 4 (Carnahan 2, Pullins, Bissell). Field Goals: 15-50 (.300). Rebounds: 22 (Parker 7, Pullins 7). Turnovers: 12.
WATERFORD (9-7, 8-5 TVC Hocking): Austin Hilverding 2 2-3 8, Eric Arnold 1 0-0 2, Matt West 1 0-0 2, Tyler Pyatt 1 0-0 2, Tate Lang 6 3-8 15, Braden Burer 2 1-2 6, Shane Kern 1 0-0 2, Brian Moore 1 5-10 8, Austin Shriver 0 6-8 6, Eli Strahler 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15 17-31 51. Three-point goals: 4 (Hilverding 2, Burer, Moore). Field Goals: 15-37 (.405). Rebounds: 35 (Burer 7, Hilverding 7). Turnovers: 13.