Waterford Falls to Hiland in State Final

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Next season Waterford will unveil a new banner.  It will say “Runner-up.”

Berlin Hiland won its fifth State Championship by defeating the Lady Wildcats 61-41.

The final score tells it right.  Hiland led for over 30 minutes in the 32-minute game.  Waterford had one lead the entire contest.  Megan Ball was fouled after making a basket.  Ball converted on the free throw.  Waterford led 3-2.  Twenty-one seconds later, Jessica Troyer made a layup for Hiland and Waterford was out from there.

Despite playing in the State Championship for the third time, Waterford played like a nervous team.  On the other side, the Lady Hawks played it like a home game.

Up 9-6 after one quarter, Hiland went off in the second, out-scoring Waterford 22-15.  The Lady Wildcats cut Hiland too much slack and Hiland took advantage.

In the first half, Hiland had 10 second chance points, but the real killer for Waterford was turnovers.  Errant passes, stolen dribbles and five-second calls took away any Waterford chance at scoring and gave it to the Lady Hawks.  Waterford had 12-first half turnovers to Hiland’s four.

The Lady Hawks led 31-21 at halftime, thanks to scoring 14 points on Waterford turnovers.

A 10-point lead is manageable in overcoming; a 21-point lead is not.

Hiland opened the second half with an 11-0 run.  Waterford didn’t score a second half basket until four minutes had passed.  With a quarter and half left, Waterford was essentially out.  The trophies could be given out right then and there.

The Hiland lead never dipped below 15 points and the Lady Hawks didn’t ease up until the bench went in.

Waterford got into a small groove, scoring five unanswered points near the end of the third.  Hiland responded with a Kennedy Schlabach layup and an Angela Troyer three pointer got the lead back to 21 for the Lady Hawks.  That cycle continued until Hiland held up the trophy.

Angela Troyer’s 20 points and Morgan McMillen’s 17 allowed Hiland to become the first Associated Press No. 1 to win state in Division IV since 2014 when Eastern took the title.

Kern led Waterford with 17 points and 10 rebounds.  Ball had nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Waterford only attempted seven three-pointers, making one.  The Lady Wildcats were apprehensive taking shots, often passing up open looks for an extra pass that led to a bad drive more often than not.

Making the State Finals in three consecutive seasons will be looked up as a great feat.  But for now, the loss will sting, but not for long.  Waterford will be back.  They will promise you that.

Waterford (25-4) will remain nearly the exact same next season.  Jillian McCutcheon is the only player leaving.  McCutcheon was important to the Lady ‘Cats, but it came mostly in the form of bench support after suffering an injury that prematurely ended her season.

Every player that stepped on the court for Waterford will return.  With Ball and Kern rocking the court for a fourth year, the Lady Wildcats will be a force again.  However, so will the Champions.

Hiland does lose Angela Troyer, the Ohio Division IV Player of the Year, but other talent will return and only get better.

When Jerry Close took over as Waterford Head Coach, he wanted to play two teams: Fort Loramie and Hiland.  Those are the two teams that have beaten him and the Lady Wildcats in the two losing State Final appearances.

Hiland and Waterford are now synonymous with the Division IV basketball.  With three-consecutive appearances for Waterford and an OHSAA-high 15 Final Four appearances for Berlin Hiland, you’ll have that.  Every team has Hiland and Waterford on the map.

A return to the Schottenstein Center can be guaranteed for no team, but it is a safe bet these teams will have an eye on each other.