ATHENS - The Waterford Wildcats had Portsmouth Sciotoville (East) right where they wanted them late in the third quarter Monday night at the Ohio University Convocation Center.
Unfortunately for head coach Tom Simms and the Wildcats, the Tartans erupted for a 14-0 run that turned a one-point ball game into a run away 53-37 district semi-final victory.
"Once again, we just struggled to get the ball in the hole," said Simms, of his team which shot just 27 percent (16-59) from the floor in the game. "We got good looks. We just couldn't get the shots to fall that we needed to fall."
The Tartans got a combined 40 points from Justin Crager and 6-foot-10 Patrick Bias, and were deadly all night long inside the paint.
East grabbed an early 10-4 lead with Crager accounting for eight of those points, before Bias and Waterford sophomore Tanner Pottmeyer traded buckets to close the opening period.
With Bias standing some seven inches taller than any Wildcat player on the Waterford roster, the Tartan game plan was to feed him the ball every chance they got.
SCIOTOVILLE (East) 53 WATERFORD 37
Sciotoville 12 10 7 24 - 53
Waterford 6 9 11 11 - 37
Justin Crager 9-12 3-4 21, Shain Siebert 0-1 0-0 0, Headon Russell 4-6 0-0 9, Tyler Bradford 1-6 0-0 2, Ricky Bolda 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Gerald 1-1 0-0 2, Patrick Bias 9-13 1-4 19, Nick Basham 0-2 0-0 0, Totals: 24-42 4-8 53.
Brian Moore 1-8 0-0 2, Eli Strahler 1-4 2-2 4, Wyatt Porter 2-13 0-0 4, Cody Paxton 3-8 1-2 8, Jacob McCutcheon 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Shriver 1-9 0-0 2, Joe Pugh 3-6 0-0 7, Austin Bauerbach 2-2 0-0 4, Tanner Pottmeyer 2-6 0-0 4, Mitch Ginther 1-3 0-0 2, Totals: 16-59 3-4 37.
Sciotoville: Shooting: 24-42 (57.1 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 1-3 (33.3 percent) (Russell), Rebounds: 37 (Bias 17, Crager 10), Assists: 14 (Crager 7, Bradford 5), Steals: 5 (Russell 2, Bradford 2), Turnovers: 19, Team Fouls: 6.
Waterford: Shooting: 16-59 (27.1 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 2-18 (11.1 percent) (Paxton 1, Pugh 1), Rebounds: 27 (Paxton 6, Porter 4), Assists: 9 (Strahler 3, Ginther 3), Steals: 10 (Moore 5), Turnovers: 13, Team Fouls: 12.
"We definitely had a size advantage and we did a good job of getting the ball into the post," said East head coach Adam Bailey. "It took us a couple of quarters to understand how they were guarding us but we finally got it going and got the ball in the paint."
Bias really had it going early in the second quarter as he scored back-to-back buckets in the paint, both coming on assists from Crager, to increase the East lead to 10 at 16-6.
Waterford got a much needed spark from Austin Bauerbach as the senior tossed in a pair of second quarter field goals to trim the lead to six at 18-12.
A short jumper from Headon Russell and yet another dish from Crager to Bias sent the lead right back to 10 before Cody Paxton drilled a trey for the Cats to close the first half with the Tartans in front 22-15.
Austin Shriver, who led the Wildcats in scoring all season long, scored what would turn out to be his only field goal of the game to open the second half but East answered on baskets by Crager and Russell to once again claim a 10-point lead at 27-17.
Sensing that their season was about to slip away, the pesky Wildcats used a pressure defense to claw their way right back into the ball game midway through the third quarter.
Wyatt Porter connected on back-to-back 15-foot jumpers to trim the lead to six at 27-21 and the Wildcat defense forced six Tartan turnovers in the third quarter including a pair of steals by senior Brian Moore.
"I thought in the third quarter that they (Waterford) were getting a lot of 50-50 balls," said Bailey. "They were real gritty and I thought they out worked us for a while there in the third quarter."
The struggling Wildcat offense began to show some life as well as the lefty shooting Paxton connected on a 10-footer and followed that up with a beautiful reverse layup, and all of the sudden the lead was down to a single point at 27-26 with 1:50 to play in the third.
"We had it down to one and we just needed one more bucket to get the lead," said Simms. "I think if we could have got the bucket at that point, they would have maybe got a little nervous and things may have turned out differently."
Unfortunately for the Wildcats that shot never came, and the combination of Crager and Bias took things to another level.
After Russell closed out the third quarter with an inside score, Crager and Bias opened the final eight minutes with a pair of field goals apiece to push the lead to a game-high 11 at 37-26.
Sciotoville finished the 14-0 run on hoops by Russell and Bias, both coming on assists from Crager to ultimately drive the final dagger into the hearts of the Wildcats.
Baskets by Mitch Ginther and Pottmeyer closed the lead to 14 but that would be as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way.
Crager, who will play football at Kentucky Christian University after graduation, led the way for the Tartans with 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
"He is a kid that has the ability to take over games," said Bailey of Crager, who rushed for over 2,300 yards for the East football team last fall. "He is unselfish most of the time, and he is just a special kid."
Bias added 19 points and a game-high 17 rebounds as the Tartans won the battle on the glass by a healthy 37-27 margin.
East hit on 57 percent (24-42) of their shots in the game, including a blistering 72 percent (13-18) in the second half.
Waterford was paced by Paxton with eight points, while Joe Pugh chipped in with seven fourth-quarter markers.
Sciotoville (17-7) will now advance to the district semifinals as they take on Portsmouth Notre Dame on Saturday, while the Wildcat season comes to a close with a 9-15 record.
"I am just thrilled that our seniors got the chance to play here," said Simms, speaking specifically of Moore, Shriver and Bauerbach. "They always wanted to get the chance to play at the Convo and they reached that goal tonight."