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By Colin Harris | Staff Writer
Southeast took a major step toward a Portage Trail Conference County Division championship on Saturday, holding off Waterloo to pick up a crucial 57-53 victory.
"This is a great win for us," Southeast head coach Bob Dunn said. "Credit to our team's leadership for coming out tonight and playing a great game for us against a good Waterloo team."
Southeast (10-3, 7-1 PTC County) was led by senior forward Shayna White, who finished with a game-high 26 points and 17 rebounds. The 5-foot-10 White was a force in the paint, dominating Waterloo (6-5, 6-3) for second and sometimes third-chance opportunities on the offensive glass, while completing stops on the other end with defensive rebounds.
White scored 16 points in the second half, making up nearly 60 percent of the Pirates' scoring in the final two quarters.
"Shayna was just dominant tonight," Dunn said. "She had a huge second half -- both offensively and in getting some huge rebounds."
Southeast opened the fourth quarter with a 48-42 lead on the strength of a 19-9 third-quarter scoring effort. White started the final period with a bucket to put the Pirates up by eight, but Waterloo responded with a 7-1 run to get the game back to a two-point difference (51-49) with 3:47 remaining.
Throughout the final four minutes of play, the two teams continued to trade baskets, with Waterloo unable to get over the hump.
Vikings senior forward Megan Forney scored on a putback with 1:35 remaining to once again cut Southeast's lead to two points.
The Pirates responded on the opposite end with a patient possession that lasted more than a minute before guard Jilian Fesemyer was fouled and sent to the free-throw line.
Fesemyer hit one of her two foul shots, giving Southeast a 56-53 lead and Waterloo essentially one final shot at tying the game.
After pushing the ball down the court and calling a timeout with 15 seconds left, Waterloo struggled to find an open shooter as Southeast defenders got into passing lanes and forced the ball out of bounds on two occasions.
Waterloo got one final shot when senior Jamie Willis was able to break free on an inbound pass and release a 3-pointer.
Willis' shot aired wide of the rim and out of bounds, essentially securing the game with 3.2 seconds left for the host Pirates.
Katelyn McCullough knocked down one of her two foul shots on the game's final possession, allowing Southeast to celebrate a hard-fought division win.
McCullough finished with 16 points for the Pirates.
"Katelyn had a great night tonight," Dunn said. "For her to chase around (Jamie) Willis all evening on defense, while still stepping up so much offensively is a real credit to her."
McCullough's performance was a big boost to Southeast as senior guard Brittany Butcher -- Southeast's second-leading scorer -- was held to four points.
Coming off of a performance last Wednesday where Butcher knocked down a new single-game school record eight 3-pointers en route to a career-best 32 points in a win over Rootstown, Waterloo head coach Dave Hamilton said she became the team's focus defensively.
"We came in tonight wanting to shut Butcher down, and I think we did a great job of that," Hamilton said. "But credit to McCullough for really stepping up and getting 16 for them."
Hamilton said that Saturday's loss was a difficult one, both in the short-term and for his team's title aspirations, but he was proud of the way his team played. The loss dropped the Vikings to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the division -- two games back of the Pirates.
"We had our opportunities; we had a good look at that last 3-pointer, but the shot just didn't fall," Hamilton said. "I'm proud of the way our kids played in the fourth quarter"
Willis finished with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead Waterloo and was joined by Forney, who recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.