TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The Eagles trailed most of the game, but they held the lead when it mattered.
The Eastern boys basketball team led for a total of 12 seconds — including the final five — on Tuesday night in Meigs County, as the Eagles claimed a 40-38 victory over Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest South Gallia.
Eastern (7-11, 7-6 TVC Hocking) initially trailed, but led 4-3 from the 4:43 mark of the first quarter, until SGHS (3-16, 2-11) regained the advantage at 5-4, just seven seconds later. The Rebels ended the first quarter with an 8-to-4 run and took the 13-8 lead into the second.
EHS tied the game twice in the second stanza, first at 15 and again at 17. The Eagles were held scoreless for the final 4:30 of the first half, and South Gallia took a 22-17 lead into the locker room.
The Rebels began the second half with a 7-to-2 run, giving the guests their largest lead of the night, at 29-19. Eastern ended the third quarter with a 7-to-3 run, trimming the SGHS lead to 32-26 with eight minutes remaining.
The Eagles scored seven of the first eight points in the finale, tying the game at 33. SGHS reestablished a two-point lead, but Eastern tied the game at 35, with 3:25 left.
EHS was held to just one point over the next 2:25, however, and the Rebels held a 38-36 lead, with one minute to play.
Eastern tied the game at 38 with 58 seconds left, and SGHS missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 on their ensuing possession.
After an empty trip from the hosts, South Gallia was set to inbound the ball with 13 seconds remaining. The Rebels committed their ninth turnover of the quarter on the inbound pass, giving the Eagles possession with 11 seconds to play.
Eastern went to its senior leader, Jett Facemyer, and he came through with a successful jump shot from the lane, giving the the Green, White and Gold a 40-38 lead with five seconds to play. The Rebel three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the left side of the rim, sealing the two-point win for EHS.
“Everybody in the gym knew who was probably going to get the ball,” Eastern head coach Jeremy Hill said of the Eagles’ final offensive possession. “That was our first option, but we had a second option setup if he didn’t have something. Fortunately, we didn’t have to need to, and Jett made the shot for us.”
Eastern won the rebounding battle by a 31-to-21 clip, including 11-to-8 on the offensive end. Both teams finished with 19 turnovers, but the Eagles only gave the ball away five times after halftime. The Rebels claimed advantages in assists (13-to-11) and steals (14-to-11).
“In the first half, our defense created offense,” SGHS head coach Larry Howell said.”Defensively, when you’re getting deflections and steals, you play in a rhythm and you make shots. I think we forced them into the shot we wanted to on the first shot, but we gave them the offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities.”
For the game, Eastern shot 18-of-49 (36.7 percent) from the field, including 1-of-7 (14.3 percent) from the three-point range. Meanwhile, South Gallia was 15-of-41 (36.6 percent) from the field, including 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) from beyond the arc. From the free throw line, EHS was 3-of-9 (33.3 percent) and SGHS shot 6-of-12 (50 percent)
“I think they’re zone bothered us a little bit,” said Coach Howell. “They played it from the middle of the second quarter on. We settled for a lot of jump shots instead of attacking the rim and I think that was the difference.”
The Rebels have now lost three straight games. Eastern is just 2-2 in its last four games overall, but the Eagles have won four consecutive TVC Hocking games.
“We were very fortunate to get another ‘w’ here tonight, it was hard-fought,” Coach Hill said. “Hat’s off to South Gallia, they are much improved from the first time we saw them. We always have a game with them. We wish well for Coach Howell, I know he’s going through a difficult time right now, I have a lot of respect for that man.”
The Eagles also defeated South Gallia in dramatic fashion in Mercerville on December 6, as a pair of Sharp Facemyer free throws, after the final buzzer, gave Eastern a 40-39 win.
On Tuesday, the Eagles were led by Jett Facemyer with 22 points, followed by Kaleb Hill with 10. Jeremiah Martindale scored seven points in the win, while Garrett Barringer added one marker.
Kaleb Hill — who led Eastern’s defense with four steals and the game’s lone rejection — pulled in a game-best nine rebounds, followed by Barringer and Jett Facemyer with seven each. Sharp Facemyer dished out a team-high five assists for the Green, White and Gold.
Austin Stapleton led the Rebels with nine points, followed by Caleb Henry and Josh Henry with eight each. Curtis Haner scored five points in the setback, Nick Klaiber chipped in with four markers, while Eli Ellis and Joey Woodall both had two points.
Caleb Henry — who paced the Rebels with five assists — led the guests on the glass with seven rebounds, followed by Josh Henry with six. Haner and Klaiber both recorded three steals to lead the SGHS defense.
Both teams are scheduled to be back in action on Friday, as South Gallia visits Wahama and Eastern travels to Waterford.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.