PICKERINGTON – It wasn’t Fisher Catholic coach Steve Petros’ imagination. Every time the Lady Irish cut the Waterford lead down to six, the Lady Wildcats had an answer.
“Six seemed to be the magic number,” Petros said. “When we worked to cut their lead down, they always had a three-pointer or old-fashioned three-point play up their sleeve. They just did a great job.
Fueled by Jessi Drayer and Sina King combining for 44 points and 15 rebounds, Waterford advanced to the Elite Eight with a 54-43 win over Fisher Catholic Thursday evening at Pickerington North High School.
Next up for Waterford (22-2) is the Division IV regional championship game Saturday evening against top-ranked Africentric. The Lady Nubians defeated Waterford 76-45 in last year’s regional semifinal.
Drayer set the tone for Waterford, scoring 10 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter. King contributed a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Waterford started the regional semifinal game on a 9-0 run, led by Drayer hitting a three-pointer and layup, and King adding two free throws. The Lady Wildcats cashed in the run for a 16-11 lead after one period and led 28-20 at intermission.
“We thought that start would set the tempo for us, but give them (Fisher) credit, because they fought right back and kept fighting,” Waterford coach Jerry Close said.
“After we got down 9-0, we played them basically even the rest of the way,” Petros said. “We got back into the game with rebounding, holding them to one shot on a lot of possessions and doing the little things. We told our girls this game would be about the little things, but they (Waterford) shot the ball well and scored some points.”
Following a jumper from Drayer to begin the second half, Fisher shaved the Waterford lead down to six with Katie Griffin scoring a layup and Paige Carpenter putting back a missed shot.
Waterford, however, had the answer with Britany Brown hitting a free throw, Drayer draining another three-ball and King hitting two of her 14 free throws at the line, expanding the lead back to 36-24.
“Jessi shot the ball well. She didn’t shoot that well in the last game, but she stepped up for us,” Close said. “We really needed a performance like that in this game. Every time we’ve needed her this year, she has basically been there for us.”
Griffin then led a mini 6-0 run for Fisher Catholic with three baskets, but an old-fashioned three-point play by King allowed Waterford to take a 41-31 lead into the last quarter.
“We’ve been in a couple of situations like this where we had to maintain a lead,” Close said. “It seemed like they kept cutting to six, seven or eight points, but the girls fought back each time. I believe that experience from the season helped us with this game.”
Fisher Catholic cut the Waterford lead down to six and seven points repeatedly in the fourth quarter, but four free throws from Drayer and two by King allowed the Lady Wildcats to hold off the Lady Irish in the end for a comfortable victory.
Griffin paced Fisher with 14 points and seven rebounds. Lena Barrows had 11 points, and Carpenter and Blair Browning each gathered seven points.
Fisher Catholic graduates four seniors – Griffin, Allison Bartholomew, Liz Olive and Laura Fink.
“Katie is going to be missed,” Petros said. “She has been a standout for three years here at Fisher Catholic.”