Waterford Rolls Past Southern To Make It To Convo

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The intensity was at a fever pitch Wednesday as the Waterford Wildcats (16-6) battled the Southern Tornadoes (12-10) at Meigs High School in the Sectional Finals. Bodies sprawled across the floor on nearly every possession, as both teams put their bodies on the line in a win-or-go-home scenario. Waterford did assert themselves in the end, winning 52-28 and punching themselves a ticket to the Convocation Center.

The first quarter blew by, with very few stoppages in play early on. There were no free throws or timeouts until the end of the first frame when Waterford’s Peyton Stevens fouled Southern’s Brayden Cunningham at the buzzer.

The Wildcats and Tornadoes both put up plenty of shots in the first eight minutes, but they struggled to convert at a high rate, and as a result the score stood 7-10 in favor of Southern after one quarter.

The game’s pace took a 180-degree turn from there on out, as both teams laid into each other, diving all over the floor, fouling hard and allowing no uncontested lay-ins. This pace seemed to favor Waterford, who meticulously built a lead throughout the remainder of the first half.

Peyton Stephens, usually a source of stability for the Wildcats, had a quiet night, but Russell Young stepped up, scoring all 16 of his points in the final three quarters as Waterford would not look back the rest of the way. Young also added 12 rebounds to his stat line to secure a double-double.

Waterford’s Zane Heiss was another key contributor for the Wildcats, canning a pair of triples and finishing his night with 14 points as the secondary scorer Waterford needed in such a hard-hitting contest.

Defensively, Waterford was locked in, forcing 14 Tornado turnovers and keeping their cool in defensive rotations. The effort on the less glamorous end of the court drew head coach Tom Simms’ praise.

“They stayed focused for most of it, a couple of possessions they were a little bit rattled up,” Simms said. “But I thought they sat down, did what I asked of them, took Southern’s shooters out of the game, and played a consistent game once they settled in.”

The Tornadoes tried to make adjustments as the game wore on, trapping aggressively and employing a 1-3-1 zone, but the Wildcats kept rolling, making quick passes to get underneath the zone and get quality looks. Even when their inside shots did not fall, they often got fouled or got their own rebound to put back up.

Waterford led by 13 as the third quarter ended, and the gap would only widen as the game’s trends continued. Simms spoke about the journey ahead after the game.

“It’s always been, as long as I’ve been down here – get to the Convo,” Simms said. “Well, we’re going to the Convo.”

Simms’ Wildcats will face White Oak on March 3.