MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Just when things were at their best, the Lady Falcons took an unfortunate turn for the worst.
The Wahama girls basketball let an 11-point third quarter lead slip away as visiting South Gallia made a 32-16 charge over the final 13 minutes of regulation Thursday night while picking up a hard-fought 55-50 victory in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Gallia County.
The Lady Falcons (4-3, 4-3 TVC Hocking) extended a 25-20 halftime lead by hitting five of their first eight shot attempts during a 9-2 surge to start the third quarter, giving the guests a sizable 34-23 advantage with 5:21 remaining.
The Lady Rebels (4-9, 2-5), however, countered with three straight scores and a 7-0 run that closed the deficit down to 34-30 with 4:20 left, then the hosts closed the canto with a small 9-8 spurt that made it a one-possession game (42-39) entering the finale.
The Red and White — who eventually extended the lead back out to 45-39 two minutes in — committed five of their eight fourth quarter turnovers in the opening three minutes, and the hosts countered with an 11-5 run that tied the game at 50-all.
The Red and Gold ended up holding Wahama scoreless over the final 1:27 of regulation, plus made 5-of-7 free throw attempts down the stretch to wrap up the five-point outcome.
On a night in which both programs shot under 50 percent from the charity stripe, the game itself came down to a battle of simply being able to make shots.
And, following a unified rally from a double-digit deficit in the second half, SGHS coach Corey Small was extremely pleased with the amount of character that his troops showed in picking up the triumph.
“I’m super proud of the girls because they played extremely hard and never quit,” Small said. “When you’re down double digits, that’s gut-check time … and these girls showed a lot of fight in getting back in this game and eventually pulling out the win.
“This was a big one for us because we’ve had some struggles of late. We’re starting to get some kids back from injury and sickness, so hopefully this can be the game that helps us start turning things around a little bit.”
Conversely, WHS coach John Arnott was frustrated with the final outcome — mainly because of having complete control of things midway through three quarters of action.
“A loss is always disappointing, especially when we had a chance to get one on the road … and we didn’t do it,” Arnott said. “I told the girls that we can make 10,000 excuses why we didn’t win, but they are all excuses. You have to come back and make an effort. We all have to search within ourselves about what we could have done to make the difference tonight. We can grow from this, though, and we’re going to run with it.”
Both teams held leads in the opening canto, but South Gallia twice led by as many as four points before claiming a 12-9 edge through eight minutes.
Wahama, however, held the hosts scoreless over the final 2:29 of the first half and closed the second period with an 8-0 surge that gave the guests a 25-20 edge at the intermission.
The Lady Rebels were outrebounded 24-16 in the first half and also committed a dozen turnovers, compared to nine giveaways by WHS.
Emma Gibbs capped a 9-3 surge with a basket at the 5:21 mark of the third, allowing the Lady Falcons to secure the largest lead of the night at 34-23.
SGHS answered with seven straight points and ended the final 5:04 of the canto with a 16-8 charge that ultimately cut the deficit down to 42-39 entering the fourth.
Kiley Stapleton capped a 6-3 run with a trifecta at the 4:45 mark, allowing South Gallia to knot things up at 45-all. Both teams traded leads and forced ties of 46-, 48- and 50-all, but Amaya Howell gave the hosts a permanent advantage of 52-50 with two free throws at the 1:15 mark.
Wahama claimed a sizable 47-33 advantage on the boards, which included a 21-10 edge on the offensive glass. SGHS committed just six turnovers in the second half and finished the night with 18 total, while the guests committed 16 of their 23 turnovers after the break.
The Lady Rebels netted 18-of-58 field goal attempts for 31 percent, including an 8-of-26 effort from 3-point territory for 31 percent. The hosts were also 11-of-25 at the free throw line for 44 percent.
Jessie Rutt paced South Gallia with a game-high 17 points, followed by Howell and Stapleton with a dozen markers apiece. Faith Poling was next with six points, while Makayla Waugh and Christine Griffith completed the winning tally with four points each.
Griffith led SGHS with 11 rebounds, with Waugh and Rutt respectively hauling in nine and six caroms.
WHS made 20-of-60 shot attempts for 33 percent, but missed all six of its trifecta tries. The guests were also 10-of-25 at the charity stripe for 40 percent.
Gibbs led Wahama with a double-double effort of 14 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Hannah Rose with 13 points and Harley Roush with 11 markers. Torre VanMatre added seven points and 11 rebounds, while Noble wrapped things up with five points and a dozen caroms.
South Gallia returns to action Monday when it travels to Trimble for a TVC Hocking contest at 6 p.m.
Wahama faced Miller on Friday night and host Waterford on Monday in a TVC Hocking bout at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.