GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — A tale of two halves.
The Ohio Valley Christian boys basketball team trailed visiting Hannan by eight points at halftime, on Thursday night in the Old French City. However, the Defenders outscored HHS by 16 points in the final 16 minutes, and OVCS claimed the 54-46 victory.
The Wildcats (2-2) — who had won back-to-back games prior to Thursday — outscored the Defenders (3-2) by matching counts of 17-13 in the first two periods, for a 34-26 lead at the half.
Hannan made 11-of-25 field goal attempts in the first half, including 6-of-11 three-point tries. Meanwhile, OVCS was 10-of-34 from the field, including 5-of-15 from deep. HHS was also 6-of-11 from the free throw line, while the Defenders were 1-of-3 from the stripe in the first half.
“We came out flat in the first half and that’s at least the fourth game this year that we’ve come out flat,” OVCS head coach Steve Rice said. “We didn’t have a since of urgency, and we played little-to-no defense in the first half. It was pretty aggravating to watch, to be honest.”
Hannan outrebounded Ohio Valley Christian by a 21-to-15 clip in the first half, but the Defenders claimed a 3-to-5 edge in the turnover category.
The Wildcats went cold after the half, scoring just three points in the third period, on 1-of-14 shooting. Ohio Valley Christian shot just 2-of-8 from the field, in the third, but the Defenders were 6-of-6 from the line, cutting the HHS lead to 37-36 with one period to play.
Hannan scored the first three points of the fourth period, but OVCS went on a 6-to-2 run to tie the game at 42. The Wildcats reestablished the lead with a Dalton Coleman trifecta, with 5:13 to go.
OVCS pulled within one point on the next possession, and the Defenders took a 47-45 lead — their first advantage since the first quarter — on an old-fashioned three-pointer by Austin Ragan, with 4:18 to go.
Hannan sank a free throw to pull within one point at the 4:07 mark, but the Wildcats never scored again. OVCS extended the lead to 49-46 with 2:50 left, and the Defenders sank 5-of-6 free throws in the final 17 seconds to cap off the 54-46 victory.
“I basically told them, ‘we’re going to take the ball to the hole and we have to pick up our defensive intensity,’ which we did,” Rice said of his halftime adjustments. “We took the ball to hole and made them play defense. In the first half, we were jacking up a lot of threes and we weren’t hitting them.”
After 15 trifecta attempts in the first half, OVCS tried just three triples in the second half, missing all three. For the game, the Defenders shot 13-of-17 (76.5 percent) from the free throw line and 18-of-53 from the field (34 percent), including 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
After the half, Hannan shot just 3-of-26 from the field, including 2-of-14 from deep. For the game, the Wildcats were 10-of-18 (55.6 percent) from the free throw line and 14-of-51 (27.5 percent) from the field, including 8-of-25 (36 percent) from three-point land.
“For the first time, we actually came together and we played a really good half, disciplined and unified,” Hannan head coach Ross Thornton said. “In the second half they changed up their defense and put a little more pressure on us. Some of the shots just didn’t fall, and it happens sometimes. They’re a really good team we played, they shoot the ball well and they’re well disciplined.”
For the game, Hannan claimed a 41-to-29 advantage on the glass, including a 15-to-9 edge in offensive rebounds. OVCS committed just six turnovers in the win, seven less than what Hannan committed.
The Ohio Valley Christian offense was led by Elijah McDonald with 19 points and four assists. Austin Ragan posted 15 points, seven rebounds and a game-best three steals for the Defenders, while Justin Beaver added 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Hollis Morrison scored three points for the victors, while Michael Gruber and Nate Dubs each had two points.
Dalton Coleman led the Wildcats with 16 points, followed by Malachi Cade with 12. Corey Hudnall marked nine points and a team-high four assists, Chase Nelson chipped in with seven points and eight rebounds, while Logan Nibert had two points and a game-best 13 rebounds. Coleman and Hudnall led the HHS defense with three steals apiece.
The Wildcats and Defenders will do battle again on February 13, in Ashton.
Hannan is part in the West Virginia State Hoops Classic on Friday and will return home on Thursday, against Buffalo.
“We knew that the competition was going to get a little tougher in this stretch,” Thornton said. “If we play with this level of effort, then we’ll be just fine.”
OVCS returns to action in a tournament at Covenant on Friday and Saturday and will be on the road Tuesday, visiting Wood County Christian.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.