ATWATER OH- As February meets its midway point and March is around the corner, that can only mean one thing. Playoff basketball! On the girls side of high school basketball, a handful of teams already tipped-off their first tournament game, with some already setting dates for their next round matchup. However, Wednesday night was a full-blown kickoff of tournament time in Ohio! Over in Atwater, YSNs own, #2 seeded Waterloo Vikings hosted a very tough, time-tested, #4 seeded Canton Central Catholic Crusaders came to town.
Defense tends to take precedence in the playoffs and this matchup was no different! As both squads struggled to find offense, prompting a carefully calculated chess match to ensue on the hardwood amongst the two programs. Rose Couts opened the scoring for Waterloo, but The Crusaders Makayla Johnson responded promptly, creating a theme for the evening. The first eight minutes saw The Vikings take a small lead 12-9 after a quarter of play. If you thought the defense was good in the first quarter, well kick up the intensity because these amps go to 11 during playoffs! The Crusaders kept trucking along and found the counter offensive run they were looking for in the second. Subsequently, The Vikes went ice cold from the field, being held without a field goal in the second quarter, leaving Waterloo to make up their points at the free throw line. Despite the offense falling out of rhythm, it did not waiver The Vikings spirit on defense, keeping it close but The Crusaders held the slim halftime lead 17-15 heading to the locker room.
Out of the half the great game adjuster, Coach Kevin Longanecker, made a few tweaks in coaching with players like Bayley English and Rose Couts facing foul trouble and Kaylee Webb out with injury. Hoping the law of averages would finally fall their way in the second half, after a cold second quarter and going the entirety of the first half without a made three point shot. Enough offense was found for Waterloo as Bayley English connected from deep to help propel The Vikings back in front 23-22 with the final quarter still to play. Rolling with momentum into the final quarter, both Makayla Johnson and Kaira English were having block parties against one another in a battle of anything you can do I can do better, effectively limiting each other’s game with great defense. Jewel Lilley played some crucial minutes down the stretch that helped ease some of the worries of players fouling out before the end of the game. Abby Mazur hit “The Mazur’s Edge” three pointer from the wing that boosted The Viking lead to seven in the waning moments of the fourth! A team performance through and through, but it was the smallest girl with the biggest heart on the court, Lilly Foster who earned Player of The Game nods for her outstanding defense through four quarters of play, creating turnovers, winning 50/50 balls and helping turn the tides in Waterloo’s favor. Rose Couts sealed it with some made free throws, winning the sectional semi-final matchup 33-26!
With nothing short of heart, hustle and determination shown by a team of just six girls, The Waterloo Lady Vikings are moving on! The win will earn #2 Waterloo (15-7) another home playoff matchup, this time against #7 East Canton (5-16) in a meeting with The Wizards on Saturday, February 18th for a 1:00 p.m. tip-off! Interviews with winning Head Coach Kevin Longanecker and Player of The Game Lilly Foster can be found below!
*Contributed By YSN’s Ty Bartell