ATHENS, Ohio — For the second time in three years the South Gallia boys basketball team is the district runner-up.
The eighth-seeded Rebels, who earned their first ever district final appearance in 2012, met with top-seeded Peebles, Saturday at the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University, for the district championship. The Indians ended South Gallia’s hopes for a first ever regional birth with a 66-58 PHS triumph.
The Rebel (11-12) defense forced Peebles to miss their first six shots from the field and built an 8-0 lead just three minutes into the game. The Indians and Rebels played evenly over the remainder of the opening stanza and SGHS led 16-8.
Peebles (22-3) began to claw its way back using defense and rebounding to tie the game at 25 at halftime. The Indians outrebounded the Rebels 10-to-4 and held SGHS to just 1-of-6 shooting from the field in the second canto.
The Red, White and Blue took their first lead of the contest 13 seconds into the second half and they never trailed again. In all the Indians scored 23 points in the third period and led 48-38 with eight minutes to play.
South Gallia was 8-of-8 from the free throw line in the first six minutes of the finale and cut the deficit to one possession. The Indians did what good teams do and closed the game out from the charity strip, cashing in eight times over the final 1:08 to seal the 66-58 triumph.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way we competed,” second year South Gallia head coach Larry Howell said. “We knew we had a good chance to compete with this team if we could hold Beau Justice down; he got loose on us but our kids never quit. It was a great effort by our kids.”
The Rebels were led by Brayden Greer with 11 points, followed by Ethan Spurlock and Landon Hutchinson with 10 apiece. Mikey Wheeler marked eight points, Gus Slone and Devin Lucas each added six, while Ethan Swain with four and Jared Calhoun with three rounded out the SGHS scoring.
As a team the Red and Gold shot 19-of-46 (41.3 percent) from the field and 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) from the charity stripe. South Gallia marked 19 rebounds, 11 assists, one block, 10 steals and 17 turnovers.
Wheeler and Spurlock each had five rebounds to lead the Rebels, followed by Landon Hutchinson with four. Greer had a game-high six assists, while Wheeler marked two. Spurlock paced the defense with three steals, followed by Wheeler with two steals and Slone with a block.
South Gallia struggled with foul trouble throughout the night, with both Greer and Landon Hutchinson setting out for extended breaks.
“It changes us completely,” Howell said. “We know longer are an attacking team, which was the game plan coming in, when Brayden and Landon aren’t in the game. It really changes the entire makeup of the game, Joseph Ehman didn’t do a bad job he just doesn’t have the expierence that Brayden has. Really from the second quarter on we had to change who we are.”
Peebles was led by district player of the year Beau Justice with 32 points, followed by Zach Arrasmith with 16 and Cody Ireton with six. Eric Schmitz had four points, Tyler Ryan and Scout Kremin both added three, while Brody Johnson marked two in the triumph.
PHS shot 18-of-44 (40.1 percent) from the field and 25-of-36 (69.4 percent) from the free throw line. Peebles had 41 rebounds, eight assists, six steals and 22 turnovers.
The Indians were led by Ireton with eight boards, followed by Justice with five. Arresmith had a team best three assists, while Ireton led the defense with three steals.
“Swain did a great job guarding Justice,” Howell said. “When we tried to find a matchup for Justice we looked at who has the most heart and that’s who Ethan Swain is. He may not be the fastest or strongest but he has the most heart and the most smarts, He cares about guarding the other team’s top player and along with his teammates I think he did an awesome job of making everything tough.”
This is the third district title for the Indians, with the other two came in 1984 and 1974.
This marks the final game for South Gallia seniors Ethan Spurlock, Gus Slone, Ethan Swain, Chris Johnston, Jared Calhoun and Mikey Wheeler.
“These seniors have kind of set the standard to what I want our program to be,” said Howell. “This group wasn’t supposed to be very good, they didn’t have much success at a young age but the time they have put in they deserve this. They’ve led this younger group and now they have a great work ethic as well and it’d be nice to be back here next year doing the same thing.”
Peebles advances to the regional semifinal where the Indians will face the Nubians of Africentric on Tuesday night at the Convocation Center. The other regional semifinal will feature Leesburg Fairfield and Canal Winchester Harvest Prep.