HEATH, Ohio -- In a back and forth defensive battle, the Bishop Watterson Eagles continued their Cinderella story in the Division II tournament with a big 44-35 district final victory over the Heath Bulldogs on Saturday.
This district championship notches the Eagles their eighth district title since the 2000 season and the first since 2014. Watterson was 3-14 in mid February, then they began to peak at the perfect time going 7-1 in the final eight games with wins over No. 11 Bexley, No. 7 Linden, No. 3 Beechcroft, and now No. 4 Heath.
Watterson had a stellar gameplan coming into Saturday’s matchup where they were not going to allow any easy baskets in the paint. Their zone defense with sophomore big man Cole Rhett in the middle worked like a charm.
The Eagles and the Bulldogs were trading baskets throughout the entirety of the first half. Things got started with a triple by Wattersons senior Jacob Hoying, followed by a midrange jumper by Heath junior big man Brandon McLaughlin. McLaughlin scored every field goal for the Bulldogs, however Heath trailed 9-6 after one quarter.
McLaughlin picked up where he left off in the first with a mid range jumper followed up by triples from juniors Keylan Williams and Josh Guy to go on an 8-0 run to start the second quarter. Sophomore Owen Samenola halted Heath's run with a driving layup, but Watterson entered halftime trailing the Bulldogs 17-15.
The third quarter was about as back and forth as you can get. The Eagles got the second half started out strong with a 5-0 run by senior Sam Intihar to take the lead. This run by Intihar included him going 2/2 from the free throw line followed by an and-one conversion.
Their lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Heath answered the bell with a 6-0 run, led by a strong finish through contact from junior Reece Huber, followed by a triple by Williams.
Watterson ties the game up at 25, behind five straight points to end the third quarter by senior Noah Grayem.
Rhett had an impressive sequence to start the final frame, with a midrange floater followed up by a timely block on the defensive end. Rhett was clutch for the Eagles, scoring six of his eight points in the fourth quarter.
Williams and Huber made a couple of big baskets down the stretch for Heath, but a 7-0 run on clutch free throw shooting was the final nail in the coffin for the Bulldogs. Look for Heath to have their minds set on getting back to this point and achieving their first district title since 2011 next season, as almost their entire rotation are juniors.
Intihar led all scorers with 14 points, with 13 of them coming in the second half. Seniors Hoying and Grayem pitched in nine points each for Watterson.
McLaughlin led the way for Heath with an 11 point and 10 rebound double double, while Huber pitched in 10 points. Williams also added nine points for the Bulldogs.
Bishop Watterson advances to the regional semifinals to take on McNicolas next Thursday March 11 at Vandalia High School at 5:30 PM.