RACINE, Ohio — The home court advantage finally paid off.
The Southern boys basketball team claimed its second home victory of the season on Tuesday in Meigs County, with the Tornadoes shooting over 45 percent from the field en route to a 68-54 victory over Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest South Gallia.
South Gallia (9-4, 5-3 TVC Hocking) —which brought a five-game winning streak into the game —led 5-3 and 7-5 in the opening quarter, but Southern (5-6, 4-4) claimed seven straight points and never trailed again.
The Rebels tied the game at 12 by the end of the first quarter, but the Tornadoes began the second with a 9-0 run and led 21-12 with 4:40 left in the half.
A 7-to-2 Rebel run was answered by an 8-to-2 spurt from Southern, giving the hosts a double-digit advantage a minute from halftime. The guests, however, scored the final six points of the half, trimming the margin to 31-27 at the break.
South Gallia made it a one-point game with a 10-to-7 run at the start of the second half, but Southern scored 13 of the next 17 and led 51-41 at the end of the third quarter.
The guests made it to within seven points, at 56-49, but Southern hit back-to-back buckets and then hit 8-of-12 free throws down the stretch, sealing the 68-54 victory.
Following the triumph, 11th-year Tornadoes’ head coach Jeff Caldwell was pleased to see the shots finally finding the net on his team’s home court.
“It’s definitely our best win on our home court, because quite frankly, we haven’t played very well here,” Caldwell said. “It was nice to see shots going though the net tonight, that’s really what it’s been about, we just haven’t shot the ball very well here. Tonight we shot the ball pretty well overall and hit some foul shots. Guys are gaining confidence and that’s big.”
For the game, SHS shot 26-of-57 (45.6 percent) from the field, including 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, The Rebels connected on 17-of-50 (34 percent) field goal attempts, including 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from beyond the arc. At the free throw line, the hosts were 12-of-20 (60 percent), and the guests were 16-of-26 (61.5 percent).
South Gallia head coach Kent Wolfe spoke highly of the Tornadoes, but acknowledged his team wasn’t quite at full strength.
“Credit to them, I thought they played really well,” Wolfe said. “I had them as one of the top leaders in the league with everybody they had coming back, and I think they’re starting to come around a little bit. They’re a two-edge sword, you guard the post and they’ll kick it. I know they haven’t been hitting shots, but they hit some shots tonight when they needed to.
“I’m not going to make excuses and take anything away from their win, but we’ve got some sickness, and Eli Ellis didn’t play after spraining his ankle in the last five minutes of practice last night. We have to lick our wounds, get ready to play Wahama on Friday and get healthy.”
Southern won the rebounding battle by a 35-to-31 tally, including 14-to-12 on the offensive end. SHS also claimed the turnover edge, committing 13 and forcing 18. Collectively, the Tornadoes earned 15 assists, nine steals and a quartet of blocked shots, while the Rebels finished with 10 assists, eight steals and three rejections.
Caldwell noted his team’s depth as a key to the win, and talked about the confidence that’s been building.
“I feel like we have some guys who can come of the bench and really do some things for us,” Caldwell said. “We have eight guys who just play varsity, I’m getting more and more confidence in each and every one of those guys, and they’re getting more confidence in themselves out on the court. This was a big win for us, but it’s only one, we have to come back tomorrow and get ready for the next one.”
While the Rebels’ five-game win streak is over, Wolfe reflected on his team’s success to this point in the campaign.
“We’ve had a nice little run,” Wolfe said. “It’s not the end of the world, we’ll comeback and get after it again tomorrow. On the bright side, we’ve won nine games, after only winning seven last year. Here at the turn, we’ve won five league games, and we only won four all of last year.”
SHS senior Jensen Anderson sank seven field goals en route to a team-high 18 points. Weston Thorla and Brayden Cunningham both scored 10 points, with Thorla earning a team-best five assists, while Austin Baker, Cole Steele and Arrow Drummer added seven points apiece, with Baker grabbing seven rebounds.
Coltin Parker scored five points for the hosts, while Trey McNickle came up with four points and seven rebounds. McNickle led the Purple and Gold on defense with four steals, while Cunningham added three rejections.
South Gallia senior Braxton Hardy finished with a game-high 23 points, sinking 10-of-11 free throws. C.J. Mayse posted a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, while leading the Rebel defense with two steals and two blocks.
Nick Hicks scored eight points for the guests, while Garrett Saunders and Kyle Northup had five each, with Northup dishing out a team-high four assists.
These teams are slated to battle again on Feb. 5 in Mercerville. Both Southern and South Gallia are home on Friday, with the Tornadoes welcoming Belpre and the Rebels hosting Wahama.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.