LONDONDERRY, Ohio — No return to districts, but no easy-out either.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball fell just short of a second-straight Division II sectional title on Saturday inside Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium, as second-seeded Jackson slipped past the seventh-seeded Blue Devils by a 42-38 count.
Gallia Academy (15-9) tied the game twice before taking its first lead, at 5-4, on a Logan Blouir free throw at the 2:48 mark of the first quarter. After another Blue Devil free throw, Jackson (16-7) ended the quarter on a 5-0 run and headed into the second with a 9-6 edge.
GAHS regained the lead with a string of two-pointers by Blouir, Caleb Henry and Cory Call in the opening 2:25 of the second quarter, but a 5-0 Ironmen run gave JHS a 14-12 lead by the midway point of the period.
Henry tied the game for Gallia Academy with a pair of free throws, but a Caleb Wallis foul shot gave JHS a 15-14 edge with 2:31 left in the half. From there, Henry poured in seven straight points to give the Blue Devils a 21-15 lead at the break.
Each team made a two-pointer in the first 2:15 of the second half, and then Jackson rattled off five straight points to cut the Blue Devil lead to 23-22 with 4:23 left in the third. The Blue and White gained some breathing room with a two-pointer by Blouir with 3:05 to go in the quarter, but the Ironmen answered and trimmed the margin to 25-24 by the end of the third.
Blaine Carter opened the finale with a two-pointer for the Blue Devils, but Jackson hit back-to-back buckets and led 28-27 with 6:20 to play. GAHS never regained the edge, with Jackson sealing the 42-38 victory with a 14-of-20 performance from the foul line in the fourth.
Following the season-ending setback, Gallia Academy head coach Gary Harrison acknowledged the JHS second half spurt, as well as the Blue Devils trouble finishing around the rim.
“Give Jackson credit, they played pretty well in the second half,” Harrison said. “I think it came down to, we got a little tired at the middle and end of the fourth quarter. We just missed so many shots, we had gimmes we just missed, and we didn’t finish.
“We played them, and I still don’t think we were a seven-seed. Kudos to our kids, our kids played well. They battled all year, through all the adversity we had. We won 15 games this year, and I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d win 15 games after what we went through.”
For the game, Gallia Academy was 15-of-46 (32.6 percent) from the field, including 3-of-10 (30 percent) from deep, while Jackson was 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) from the field, including 3-of-8 (37.5 percent) from three-point range. At the free throw line, GAHS was 5-of-10 (50 percent) and JHS was 19-of-28 (67.9 percent).
The Blue Devils held a 29-to-23 rebounding advantage, including 12-to-4 on the offensive end, but GAHS committed seven turnovers, two more than Jackson. Gallia Academy ended with team totals of nine assists, two steals and one rejection, while JHS had six assists, five steals and two blocked shots.
Henry led the Blue Devils with 15 points, nine of which came in the second period. Blouir ended with eight points and a team-best seven rebounds, Call added five points, while Carter chipped in with four.
Justin McClelland and Bailey Walker rounded out the GAHS total with three points apiece, with McClelland dishing out a team-best three assists, and Walker grabbing six rebounds. Leading the Blue and White on defense, Walker had two steals, while Blouir blocked a shot.
Wallis led Jackson with 17 points, nine of which came from the charity stripe. Cooper Donaldson — who led the JHS defense with two steals and a rejection — scored 12 points, to go with team-highs of nine rebounds and two assists.
Caden Donaldson contributed nine points to the winning cause, Nevan Yates added three, while Treylan Davis chipped in with one.
This marks the last game in the Blue and White for GAHS seniors Justin McClelland, Cory Call, Bailey Walker, Cole Davis, Blaine Carter, Brendan Carter and Caleb Henry.
Coach Harrison talked about his seniors, and what the younger group of Blue Devils will have to do to fill their roles.
“It’s a sad night for our seven seniors,” Harrison said. “I wish them luck, they’ve been a great asset to our program, and they’ve helped build it up. They’ve really done a lot for us in the four years they’ve been here, and I’m really going to miss them.
“We have a lot of work to do in the gym. We have to get stronger, and better with our skills, but next season is going to be good. We have great junior high teams, seventh grade won the OVC this year, and our jay-vee team went 20-2. Our younger kids got a taste of what this is like, so I think that’s going to be good for them.”
In their first district semifinal since 2003, the Ironmen will face No. 3 seed Warren on Friday at Ohio University.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.