PARKERSBURG — Ohio Division IV power Waterford gave host Parkersburg all it wanted Saturday night inside Memorial Fieldhouse, but the Big Reds of first-year head coach Scott Cozzens survived the Wildcats’ comeback bid and held on for a 56-52 triumph in the season opener for both teams.
Shay-Lee Kirby, who drained a trio of 3s early in the third quarter to help push a 26-25 red and white halftime cushion to a 35-29 advantage, put Waterford in a 49-37 hole after making a foul shot with 5:14 left in the game.
However, the Wildcats used a pair of and-1s from Megan Ball, who had a game-high 18 points, as well as three 3-pointers from Rachael Adams to roar back to within two at 54-52 with 38 ticks to go. Big Red Maggie Richards, who replaced injured starter Aleea Crites in the first quarter and finished with 14 points, sank two charity stripe tosses with 20.8 remaining to ice the affair.
“Richards, what about that, huh?” said a smiling Cozzens after the game while noting Crites left after stepping on a Wildcat foot and hurting her ankle. “I’ve been telling people. You are going to learn about this kid (Richards).
“Waterford knows how to play. They know how to control tempo. Did you see them panic? We might have turned them over and stuff, but you did not see them panic. Coach (Jerry) Close does a tremendous job and that’s why we like to play them.”
Madi Mace posted a double-double of 17 points to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds to lead the Big Reds, who visit Huntington on Tuesday. Kirby, who was in foul trouble along with Bre Wilson (nine points), finished with a dozen counters.
Alli Kern, who fouled out in the fourth after nearly getting her third block, finished with 17 points, 11 boards and a trio of assists.
PHS exploded out of the gate and jumped ahead 11-2 as the Wildcats had to call a timeout after Richards’ 14-footer rattled through the cylinder to give Tavien Clark an assist. A 3 by Alli Kern and a bucket by Ball, thanks to an Emily Kern dime, made it 15-10, but Mace had a reverse lay-in to close out the quarter scoring.
The Wildcats, set to play host Monday to Federal Hocking, held the Big Reds to a 3 of 13 effort from the field in the second quarter. Hannah Duff’s deuce closed the gap to 23-21 and after Alli Kern took a charge on Wilson, she scored to make it a one-point game at the break.
Waterford’s only lead of the game came at 27-26 when Ball drove to the hole for a lay-in to open the second-half scoring. PHS tied its biggest lead of 12 at 43-31 when Mace, who had three steals, scored from the block with less than a minute remaining in the stanza.
Coach Close’s team had a couple opportunities late after Ball’s three-point play with 1:35 to go drew the Wildcats to within three at 52-49. Adams (11 points) managed her third steal just seven seconds later, but WHS turned it over. Following another steal by Adams, which turned out to be her fourth and a game-high, the ‘Cats had the ball with 54.6 on the clock and were still down by just one possession. However, Mace stepped in front of an errant pass, was fouled driving to the hoop and made both free throws.
Waterford had eight of its 20 turnovers in the first quarter and the Big Reds had six of their 14 in the final period.
The two teams shot nearly identical from the field — WHS 40.9 percent (18 of 44) and PHS 40.4 percent (19 of 47) — and each collected 29 rebounds.