Wildcats Beat Belpre, Build Momentum for Playoffs

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With three seconds remaining in the game Friday night, Waterford’s Russell Young stepped to the free throw line with a chance to ice the win for the Wildcats. Nothing else mattered to him except hitting those last two shots.

“It’s got to go through. It’s just what Coach Simms stresses: foul shots when you’re tired,” Young said after the game.

Young widened his stance, took a single dribble, and knocked down both free throws to give the Wildcats a 4-point lead over the Belpre Golden Eagles.

A missed half court heave from Belpre’s Logan Adams solidified a 61-57 Waterford victory on senior night.

The front court duo of seniors Young and Peyton Stephens ran the show for the Wildcats. Both forwards played the entirety of the matchup and contributed double-doubles in their final home game. Young had 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Stephens added 13 points and 13 boards.

The final score may have reflected a close game, but Waterford controlled the third quarter. The Wildcats went on an 18-10 run in the third, leading by 13 with a minute left in the quarter.

Waterford lead heading into the fourth but the resilient Golden Eagles refused to go down without a fight. The final period had everything a rivalry game should — eight minutes of flaring tempers, angry fans and most importantly, physical basketball.

Belpre forward Jerimiah Stitt spearheaded the Golden Eagles aggressive defense. The big man affected every shot taken by Waterford in the paint. Stitt hauled in eight rebounds and dominated on the block for 13 points.

Adams and Conner Baker put up 18 and 16 points respectively. Baker played a large part in Belpre’s late-game comeback as he drove to the rack every chance he got and made his way to the line. A win was well within reach for the Golden Eagles, but time, however, was not on their side. Belpre got hot too late in the fourth and had to rely on fouling to extend the game.

The Wildcats managed to hold off the Golden Eagles, giving their seniors something to celebrate. Waterford defeated a tough opponent and now have some momentum entering postseason play.

“Everybody talks about ‘you want to peak at tournament time.’ Well I don’t think we’ve peaked, but I think we’re getting ourselves to the point where we’re ready to play tournament basketball,” Waterford head coach Tom Simms said.

Coach Simms and the Wildcats will get the opportunity to show just how ready they are next week when OHSAA Boys playoffs begin.