Waterford Tournament Preview

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Expectations have been high for the Waterford basketball teams in the past seasons and this year the Wildcats find themselves in a familiar spot.

Both boys and girls teams clinched the No. 1 seed in their sectional, granting a first round bye.

As the Lady Wildcats attempt to repeat as Division IV champions, their sectional’s toughest task will be a team that they have already beat twice and by sizable margins. Belpre is the No. 3 seed but has lost to Waterford both times by a combined score of 117-53.

How deep the Lady Wildcats can go into the tournament will depend on three factors:

* Develop Depth

– Waterford is a terrific basketball team, the whole TVC-Hocking can attest to that. But an area of concern is what happens if Alli Kern or Megan Ball have off-nights? The team relied heavily on these two players for much of the season and their depth has yet to be tested. If role players like Hayley Duff or Rachel Adams can contribute consistently then expect Waterford to make another deep run in the tournament.

* Alli Kern and Megan Ball

– As stated above, the two focal points of Waterford have been Kern and Ball but this is the first year they are shouldering a heavy load. During last year’s tournament run they were more role players. The duo showed this season that they are more than capable of being the stars of the team, however, if they can continue their performance through the tournament will be in question.

* Round 3 versus Eastern

– This is certainly not set in stone but a third matchup between Eastern and Waterford would be incredible. The Eagles were the only team from the TVC-Hocking to contend with the Wildcats throughout the season and despite Waterford winning both games, one of the toughest tasks in sport is beating a competitive team three consecutive times. Waterford will have that opportunity if Eastern advances to the district finals, as they may have to play 17-1 Notre Dame to advance past their bracket. In the last matchup between Waterford and Eastern, Waterford barely beat the Eagles, 37-33, even with a 16-3 advantage after the first quarter. The third time around, Eagles will attempt to stop Kern and Ball earlier on and could potentially be the biggest threat to Waterford’s repeat chances.

Much like the girls’ basketball team, Waterford’s boys’ team ran through the TVC-Hocking unscathed. A perfect division record awarded the Wildcats the No. 1 seed in their sectional. But they have a much tougher road to regionals than their school-counterpart. The three factors that will determine how deep of a run these Wildcats are as follows:

* Start Fast

– “We’re not a good bus team,” Coach Simms explained in response to his teams early game struggles this season. Too often the Wildcats have struggled against inferior opponents in the first 16 minutes. Turnovers and bad shot selections have been the bane of this team and that kind of play can put a quick halt to a team in the playoffs. Waterford needs to identify the hot-hand early and continue to go to him while other teammates attempt to find their shot. The team is certainly not short of playmakers as about six different players have led the team in scoring at one point in the season. The key will be to find who has the rhythm early on in games.

* Apply Pressure

– When the game is swinging away from Waterford they have been able to switch their defense to a half-court press. Most teams have struggled to get their offense in-sync once pressure has been applied by the Wildcats. Pressuring the offense results in turnovers and transition baskets, this has been an aspect that the Wildcats have excelled at this year. When you force teams to play to your tempo, you will have much more success especially in the postseason.

* Emphasize the Hustle

– Waterford has been able to dominate the TVC-Hocking not only because of their superior talent-levels but also because they outwork their opponents. Seldom do teams win the “hustle points” category against the Wildcats and the hard work shows on both ends of the court. This is a well-coached team that stresses the little things which will help them in tight games in the tournament.

The girls’ team will play the winner of Trimble on Thursday, Feb. 16 at Meigs High School, tipoff at 6:15.

While the boys’ team is wrapping up the regular season with games against Southern on Feb. 14 and then the season finale at Belpre, Feb. 17. Waterford will then have over a week to prepare for their first playoff game between the winner of Eastern/Green High School. The Wildcats’ first playoff game will be Feb. 28 at Meigs High School with tipoff at 6:15.