BEVERLY – The Wildcats of Waterford took the short trip over to Fort Frye Saturday evening for a heated non-conference rivalry game. In front of a standing-room-only crowd, it was visiting Waterford that mustered an early, fourth-quarter 13-2 run that led to a 45-36 win to complete Waterford’s season sweep of their nearby rival.
Waterford, now 14-3 overall, was coming off a tough loss Friday night against Federal Hocking – a team responsible for two of the three Wildcat losses this season – and was entering Saturday without 6-9 D.J. Cunningham for the first eight minutes (coach’s decision), but Fort Frye was only able to connect on three of its 12 field goals – including just one of seven from beyond the arc – in the first stanza.
The Cadets led by only two at 7-5, and Cunningham’s entrance helped Waterford’s offense get going in the second-quarter. The Wildcats hit on five of nine shots during the second period including an Alex Lang three-pointer and a Derek Hoge old-fashion three to lift the green and white to a 19-16 halftime advantage.
“Last night we felt like Federal Hocking was a step faster than us,” said Waterford head coach Tom Simms. “We never did get into a flow and we couldn’t get any shots to fall. Tonight, we were able to get the game into more of a half court style and control the tempo better.”
In the third quarter, Waterford’s defense continued to be the story. Fort Frye’s Jarrod Arnold entered Saturday’s game averaging 11 points per game; however, the junior guard was smothered in the first half by Waterford’s diamond-and-one defensive scheme. Arnold knocked down an early three-pointer in the first quarter, but was unable to get a shot off in the second quarter. This did open up the middle for Fort Frye’s leading scoring Derek Thompson and the senior responded with a six point third-quarter to keep the Cadets close.
Waterford then countered with a triangle-and-two chasing Arnold and Thompson for several trips and eventually the Cadet offense stalled completely. For the game, Arnold and Thompson combined for 15 points – 12 points below their combined average – and the red, white, and blue suffered through a five-minute spurt in the fourth quarter in which they only converted on one field-goal.
Another key in the second half came of the glass. After allowing Fort Frye (15-3) nine offensive rebounds in the first half, Waterford out rebounded the Cadets 15-9 in the second half including six, second-chance points for Waterford in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Cunningham grabbed six of his game-high nine rebounds in the fourth quarter to go with his 11 points. Waterford also got 11 points from Lang, but was led by Hoge with 12 points.
Two late triples from junior Brandt Thieman helped Fort Frye cut a 43-30 deficit to 43-36, but Waterford was able to convert well enough at the line to preserve the win. Thieman finished with a team-high 11 points. The junior guard also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists. Thompson led the Cadets with eight boards.
Waterford travels to Eastern-Reedsville Tuesday night and then to Trimble on Friday before playing its final home game against 16-1 Vinton County on Saturday night in a much anticipated match-up.
“The Stewart (referring to Vinton County’s Ryan Stewart) kid is great shooter and Guthrie (referring to Vinton County’s Dustin Guthrie) is a guy we have known about for three years now and he’s a man,” said Simms when asked about his home finale with the Vikings next week. “First, we have two tough road games this week, and then, the Vinton County game will be a big one. We’ll work hard this week to keep getting better and we’ll see what happens.”
There will be no round three in this rivalry this season, because Fort Frye and Waterford are in Division III and Division IV, respectively. Coach Dan Liedtke’s Fort Frye team is the top-seed in its sectional while Waterford is the two-seed.