WELLSTON, Ohio — The game was two minutes too long, and the postseason run was far too short.
The 13th-seeded Southern boys basketball team had its postseason come to an end in the Division IV sectional semifinal on Wednesday at Wellston High School, with 20th-seeded Waterford going on a 13-0 run over the final 2:04 for the 47-42 victory.
The Tornadoes (11-11) — who entered play on a four-game winning streak — never trailed in the opening quarter, hitting a trio of three-pointers on their way to an 11-8 edge.
SHS started the second period with a 5-to-2 spurt, but surrendered the next seven points to the Wildcats (7-13), who led for the first time in the game at 17-16 with 1:51 left in the half.
Southern was back in front on an Arrow Drummer two-pointer 34 seconds later, but WHS claimed the final three points of the half for a 20-18 edge at the break.
A 6-to-3 start to the second half gave the Purple and Gold a 24-23 edge with 3:22 left in the third, but Waterford answered with back-to-back buckets for a three-point advantage with 2:25 to go. Southern closed the quarter with a 10-0 run, however, and led 34-27 with eight minutes to play.
Southern’s lead was at 36-28 within the opening minute of the fourth, but WHS scored the next six points and trailed by two with 5:34 left in regulation. The Wildcats were held scoreless for the next 3:30, as SHS built its lead back to eight points, at 42-34.
An and-1 by Jacob Huffman and a two-pointer by Luke Teters brought the Wildcats to within three, and then a Zane Heiss three-pointer tied the game at 42 with 1:05 to play. WHS took the lead for good on a Holden Dailey two-pointer off an assist from Jude Huffman with 20 seconds to play.
The Green and White hit 3-of-6 free throws in the final 10 seconds, sealing the 47-42 victory, and the spot in next Wednesday’s sectional final against Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division champion Federal Hocking.
Following the contest, 12th-year SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell admitted the setback was heart-breaking, but noted the chance to end the season on a high note, with a regular season make-up game at Trimble on Friday.
“I just feel bad for our guys, I am really hurting for them,” Caldwell said. “I thought we did enough things well in that second half to be in control of the game, and then we just lost it. Maybe we got a little bit too passive, but we also forced a couple things, it was a combination of both. Then they hit some shots down the stretch, especially that (game-tying) three from the wing.
“I love our kids and the heart they showed, I’ve enjoyed coaching them so much. We’ll go play one more at Trimble on Friday night, and we’ll try to do our best.”
Waterford outrebounded SHS 36-to-22 for the game, including 15-to-5 on the offensive end. The Tornadoes wound up with a 15-to-12 advantage on the glass in the second half, after trailing 24-to-7 in rebounding at halftime.
Southern had 12 turnovers in the game, one more than Waterford. The Tornadoes combined for nine assists, eight steals and five rejections, while WHS tallied 13 assists, eight steals and two blocks.
The Purple and Gold were 15-of-44 (34.1 percent) from the field, including 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from deep, while the Green and White hit 16-of-50 (32 percent) field goal attempts, including 3-of-10 (30 percent) three-point tries. Southern made 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) free throws — all in the second half — while WHS was 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) from the line.
Southern senior Trey McNickle led all-scorers with 15 points, featuring three triples, a pair of two-pointers and a 2-for-2 day at the charity stripe. Cole Steele was responsible for the Tornadoes’ other two three-pointers and finished with 10 points.
Drummer ended with eight points and six rebounds for the Purple and Gold, Chase Bailey added five points, while Landen Hill finished with four points and team-highs of seven rebounds and three assists.
Leading the SHS defense, Hill had two steals and two blocks, while Drummer rejected three shots.
Dailey paced Waterford with a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, to go with team-highs of seven assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Heiss was next with nine points, followed by Teters with eight, Jacob Huffman with seven, Wade Smith with six and Jude Huffman with three.
The Wildcats claim the season series with Southern by a 2-1 tally, as each team won on its home court in TVC Hocking play, SHS by a 56-40 count on Dec. 6, and WHS by a 44-41 edge on Feb. 1.
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Alex Hawley can be reached 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.