MASON, W. Va. — Philip Hoffman only added to his Wahama High School legacy on Friday night.
Already a two-time West Virginia Class A state champion in baseball, and a Marshall University signee in that same sport, Hoffman had perhaps his finest boys basketball moment on Senior Night at Gary Clark Court.
That’s because the standout Hoffman hit a buzzer-beating basket to lift the host White Falcons over the South Gallia Rebels 46-45 in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division tilt.
In a game in which neither club shot well, as evidenced by the mid 40s final score, Hoffman made his final shot on Senior Night count.
With three seconds remaining, and after the Rebels —with two fouls to give before the one-and-one bonus situation —fouled twice, Wahama inbounded the ball underneath its own basket.
As it turned out, Hoffman was wide open about six feet from the bucket, calmly banking the short floater for the dramatic buzzer-beating triumph.
Wahama head coach Ron Bradley said “it was pretty much the way we drew it up.”
It was actually, as he explained, your old-fashioned screen-and-roll set.
“You don’t get those plays very often,” he said. “We wanted Philip (Hoffman) to set a good hard screen and roll to the basket. We sent Jacob Lloyd to the corner and they (Rebels) chased him and left the block open. Philip rolled right there and got it and hit the bank shot. It’s a great win for these seniors here on Senior Night. I’m really proud of them.”
The Rebels left the door open for Hoffman and the White Falcons, as Josh Henry made only one of two free throws with 17.3 seconds remaining for a 45-44 lead.
Had Henry hit the first in addition to sinking the second, it would have forced Wahama to tie the contest with a two-pointer —with a three being needed for the win.
But South Gallia coach Larry Howell did not place blame on any single play.
“We had two fouls to give and we’ve worked in that situation before. We let a little bit of time run off after each of the two fouls. We got underneath the basket and put Eli (Ellis) on the ball and were just going to switch everything (on Wahama screens). But somebody got crossed up in the switch and Hoffman got the shot off,” he said. “We did what we needed to do offensively to win the game, but with the last play, we didn’t do what we needed to do defensively to win the game. If we can’t guard for three seconds, then we don’t deserve to win. But I feel for these kids more than I do myself.”
With the loss, the young Rebels slipped to 3-17 — and 2-12 in the TVC-Hocking.
Wahama, which completed the season sweep of South Gallia, raised its record to 8-10 — and an even 7-7 in the league.
The Rebels almost pulled off the defensive grinder — or was it more poor offense by both squads?
There were six ties and nine lead changes —with Hoffman’s heroics resulting in the final lead change.
The White Falcons shot 20-of-47 (43-percent), while South Gallia connected on 18-of-41 (44-percent).
Both teams attempted 13 three-pointers —with Wahama making six and the Rebels netting five.
Although the second-half fouls reached to six for both clubs, South Gallia was 3-of-6 from the free-throw line —while the White Falcons were 1-of-2 on a fourth-quarter split by Travis Kearns.
The game’s first points finally came with four-and-a-half minutes to play in the first quarter, as Wahama led 9-8 after one — before enduring a four-minute and 15-second scoring drought in the second stanza.
“I made a comment to one of the officials about halfway through the first quarter when nobody had scored yet that this game might end up 2-1,” said Bradley. “It was a slow offensive night, but we gutted it out and did what we had to do in the end.”
Wahama held a 17-13 advantage with five minutes to play in the second period, but the Rebels responded with 11 unanswered points — staking their largest lead at 24-17 with a minute remaining.
For the next nine minutes, however, the Rebels’ only points were a Caleb Henry basket and an Eli Ellis three-ball.
“We missed a lot of easy shots, easy layups in the first half. We were up 24-17 and it felt like it should have been 30-17,” said Howell. “It’s been the same thing game after game that has come back to bite us in the butt.”
Abram Pauley popped a three to snap the White Falcons’ second-period drought —making it 24-20 at halftime.
Wahama then outscored the Gallia countians 18-5 in the third frame —as Randy Lantz opened the quarter with three baskets, before back-to-backs treys by Mason Hildreth and Hoffman gave the hosts their largest advantage at 34-26.
But the Rebels rallied with three quick triples at the 1:50 mark of the third — and in the opening 45 seconds of the fourth.
Trifectas from Ellis, Austin Stapleton and Curtis Haner had the Red and Gold back in front 36-35.
The Rebels’ largest margin of the fourth was 44-39 with three-and-a-half to play, before Jacob Lloyd’s three and Hoffman’s driving basket tied it up at 44-44.
Hoffman and Lantz led the winners with 13 and 12 points respectively —as each hit for six field goals.
Hildredth had seven points on three field goals, while Kearns canned six on a two, a three and his free throw.
Lloyd landed five points to round out Wahama.
Josh Henry led South Gallia with 11 points —on five field goals and his late-game go-ahead foul shot.
Stapleton, on two deuces and two treys, and Caleb Henry — on four field goals and 2-of-4 free throws —had 10 points apiece for the Rebels.
Ellis added eight on two threes and a two, while Haner hit a pair three-balls for six.
The loss was South Gallia’s fifth this season by three points or less, including a 68-67 overtime defeat against the same White Falcons.
“It’s extremely frustrating (to lose close games) with a young group. You feel for them, because they are working so hard to have a chance to win the game at the end,” said Howell. “But it’s the little things that are always coming back to bite us.”
The Rebels will have their own Senior Night on Tuesday, when they host Belpre.
Meanwhile, it will be a Senior Night to remember for Lantz, Kearns, Hildredth and especially Hoffman.
“These guys have been wonderful. I’ve had Philip (Hoffman) and Mason (Hildredth) and Travis (Kearns) for several years. Randy (Lantz) is new this year, but he has come in and fit right in with these guys. They are just a great group of kids,” said Bradley. “They are fun to coach and we have a good time. When you can win on top of that, it just makes it that much better.”
The White Falcons travel to Trimble on Tuesday for another TVC-Hocking Division bout.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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