RACINE, Ohio — As usual the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking division is getting interesting toward the top.
The Southern boys basketball team knocked off TVC Hocking leader Waterford by a count of 62-51 Wednesday night in Meigs County, giving the Wildcats their first league loss of the season.
The Tornadoes (5-2, 3-1 TVC Hocking) were able to jump out to a 13-to-4 advantage through the first quarter of play, holding Waterford (7-3, 6-1) to just 2-of-15 shooting in the period.
Southern expanded its lead in the second stanza with help from beyond the arc, draining four triples in the quarter. The Wildcats marked 12 points in the second and trailed 35-16 at halftime.
“We’ve talked about how if we are going to have a say in the league championship race then we have to win our games at home,” seventh year Southern head coach Jeff Caldwell said. “The kids responded, came out fired up and did a nice job in the first half.”
The Tornadoes pushed their lead to 23 points just a minute into the second half but Waterford outscored SHS 17-to-12 the rest of the period to cut the lead to 51-35.
Southern increased its lead back to 20 points with 4:43 remaining in the game but the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to trim the lead to single digits with 1:14 remaining. SHS scored with 25 seconds left to push the lead to 11 and put the final nail in the coffin. The Purple and Gold claimed the 62-51 victory and gave WHS its first league loss of the year.
“In the second half we went small against their bigs and tried to out-quick them with our guards,” Waterford head coach Tom Simms said. “We put some pressure on and got them rattled a little bit, that’s when we were able to make our run.”
Southern was led by Taylor McNickle with 17 points, followed by Dennis Teaford with 16. Tristen Wolfe and Chandler Drummer each marked 10 points, Zac Beegle added five, while Jack Lemley and Trenton Deem both finished with two.
Southern shot 24-of-51 (47.1 percent) from the field and 9-of-10 (90 percent) from the free throw line, a full 40 percent better from the line than the Tornadoes shot in last week’s loss to Meigs.
“In the last game at Meigs we shot terribley from the free throw line so that’s something we’ve been working on in practice,” said Caldwell. “Good teams have to step up to the line and hit free throws and we did that well tonight.”
The Tornadoes finished with 35 rebounds in the game, led by McNickle with eight and Casey Pickens with seven. Wolfe finished with double-double off with a game-high 11 assists, while also leading the Tornado defense with two blocks. Deem came up with four of the five SHS steals in the game. As a team Southern committed 22 turnovers and 16 fouls, while assisting on 18 buckets.
Of the 22 turnovers by Southern, only six occurred in the first half, while 10 were in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half we lost our focus a little bit and they made a run on us,” said Caldwell. “Waterford is a good team and good teams will always make a run at you. You can’t lose your focus like we did in the fourth quarter.”
Cody Paxton led the Wildcats in all facits of the game, scoring 17 points, pulling down 11 rebounds, while marking seven steals and five assists.
Following Paxton in the scoring column were Cameron Brooker with eight points, Tryston Crawford with seven and Garret LeMaster with five. Mitch Ginther and Tanner Pottmeyer each had four points, while Eli Strahler and Jordan Welch both finished with three.
Waterford shot just 18-of-68 (26.5 percent) from the field and 10-of-18 (55.6 percent) from the charity stripe.
“Just the fact Southern has that much height diverts shots,” said Tom Simms. “They put those three big guys on the floor and its kind of intimidating. We like to get to the rim and we were going too deep into them and giving them an advantage with their size.”
As a team the Green and White finished with 23 rebounds, 13 turnovers, 11 steals, 12 assists and 13 fouls. Ginther had the Wildcats only blocked shot in the game.
The Wildcats join Southern, Belpre and South Gallia as teams with just one loss in the league so far this season. This will mark the fourth consecutive year the TVC Hocking has not had an undefeated league champion in boys basketball. The team to go unblemished in the league and win the title was Eastern in the 2009-10 season, the final season before adding Belpre, South Gallia and Wahama.