ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Defense won this championship … and the iron was really unkind too.
Third-seeded Waterford had three players reach double figures and led the final 22:51 of regulation while holding the Southern boys basketball team to just 21 percent from the field Wednesday night during a 52-28 decision in a Division IV sectional final at Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium inside of Meigs High School.
The sixth-seeded Tornadoes (12-10) battled through two ties and five lead changes before securing their largest lead of the night at 10-7 through eight minutes of play.
The Wildcats (16-6), however, forced six turnovers and held SHS to just 1-of-7 shooting in the second frame, all while hitting 7-of-13 shot attempts as part of a 16-4 surge that resulted in a 23-14 halftime advantage.
The Purple and Gold were never closer the rest of the way as WHS held the guests to just three field goals in each of the next two periods. Waterford made a 10-6 third quarter run to extend its lead out to 33-20, then closed regulation with a 19-8 run to wrap up the 24-point outcome — the largest lead of the game.
The Green and White — who shot only 35 percent from the field — advance to the district tournament and will face seventh-seeded Whiteoak at the Ohio University Convocation Center at 7:15 p.m. Sunday.
Waterford also swept Southern during the regular season with decisions of 52-50 and 68-57 in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play.
The game was physical, and the Wildcats made the most of that quality by owning the boards. Waterford’s relentless attack on the glass resulted in a 42-24 overall advantage, including a 16-10 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Tornadoes committed only 13 turnovers in the setback, compared to 16 miscues by the hosts. SHS also mustered double-digit point totals in only the first stanza.
Afterward, Southern coach Jeff Caldwell was heartbroken for his troops — mainly his seniors — because they just couldn’t find any sort of rhythm. He also noted that the Wildcats had a lot to do with that problem.
“I’m just disappointed for the kids because we didn’t play our best tonight. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively and rebounding was an issue for us throughout the game,” Caldwell said. “It’s a tough way to lose because our guys were trying to get things going, but we just couldn’t do it. Give Waterford a lot of credit for that.
“Tonight is tough for those seniors, but I also remember starting the year with three losses and we were really struggling. Those seniors help guide us to a winning season. They’ve been a really big part of this program and I’m proud of them for that.”
It was the final basketball game for seniors Weston Thorla, Austin Baker, Jensen Anderson and Brayden Cunningham in the Purple and Gold.
Southern netted 11-of-52 field goal attempts overall, including a 2-of-15 effort from behind the arc for 13 percent. The guests were also 4-of-8 at the free throw line for 50 percent.
Anderson paced SHS with eight points, followed by Thorla, Trey McNickle and Arrow Drummer with four markers apiece. Baker and Cunningham were next with three points each, while Cole Steele completed the scoring with two markers.
Cunningham led Southern with nine rebounds, with McNickle and Baker respectively hauling in seven and five caroms.
Waterford made 17-of-49 field goal attempts overall, including a 3-of-9 effort from behind the arc for 33 percent. The Green and White were also 15-of-19 at the charity stripe for 79 percent.
Russell Young led WHS with a double-double effort of 16 points and 14 rebounds, followed by Zane Heiss with 14 points and Peyton Stephens with 10 markers. Stephens also recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Nick Fouss was next with five points and Holden Dailey added four markers, while Wes Jenkins completed the winning tally with three points.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.