MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Indeed, it’s a hot streak in “MercerVegas” right now.
That’s because the South Gallia High School boys basketball team is on a now nine-game roll, as the Rebels led wire-to-wire on Friday night in clipping the Miller Falcons 73-63 in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division tilt.
The Rebels’ win streak started against the Falcons — on Dec. 18 in the two teams’ first meeting at Miller.
South Gallia is now 13-2, and 9-2 in the TVC-Hocking, trailing Trimble (9-1) by a half-game still in the league race.
The Rebels, which won at Waterford (7-2 TVC-Hocking) on Tuesday 52-43 to hand the Wildcats their second setback in the division, have yet to play the Tomcats.
Friday night’s loss left the Falcons at 6-9 — and 2-9 in the TVC-Hocking.
“Our defense has been the key all year for us,” said SGHS coach Larry Howell. “We had a really good game Tuesday night at Waterford and held them to 16 in a half. We knew Miller has some good athletes, and they were going to come out and play hard. But our defense again was what fueled our offense tonight.”
The key to the Rebels’ rolling against Miller was a pair of hot starts to each half, as South Gallia scored the opening 11 points in the first half — and seven of the first nine in the second.
South Gallia led 18-8 after the first quarter and 26-16 at halftime, as its second-half advantage never fell below double figures until 3:55 remained.
Miller made it interesting in the final five-and-a-half minutes, getting the deficit down to 11 twice (60-49 an 63-52), before it was finally a 70-63 score with 40 seconds to play.
The Falcons actually hit five three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including four by Garrett Bartley.
“In the last eight games, we’ve done a really good job of finishing. But tonight, I was really disappointed in us not taking care of the ball and making them guard a little bit longer to finish the game,” said Howell. “They hit some threes there and we kept turning it over, not being disciplined.”
But Corey Rhodes sank 3-of-4 free throws in the final 38 seconds, sealing the 10-point triumph.
The 1-2 tandem of Landon Hutchinson and Joseph Ehman combined for 54 of the Rebels’ 73 points, as all of Hutchinson’s game-high 30 came over the final three quarters —11 field goals and 8-of-13 free throws.
“Landon (Hutchinson) had 30 and he probably should have had 50,” said Howell. “He had a great game and we got the ball inside and he finished. He was really good on the offensive glass too.”
Ehman amassed 24 on nine total field goals, along with a pair of fourth-quarter free throws.
All four of his three-point goals came in the first half, including quarter-enders in both the first and second stanzas, making it a pair of 10-point margins.
Ehman had eight of those opening 11 points, including a three just 25 seconds in — and a three-ball out of the corner at the six-minute mark to make it 11-0.
“Joseph (Ehman) has been hot for us. He made some big baskets tonight,” said Howell. “The threes right at the end of the first and second quarters were huge. Those took us to 10-point leads and gave us a little momentum. But he’s done that many times and Joseph is a great player. Landon (Hutchinson) and him being three-and-four year players, we rely on them a lot to carry us through.”
Kane Hutchinson had three field goals for seven points, including a corner-pocket three that made it 8-0 only a minute and 10 seconds in and forced the Falcons to call a timeout.
Seattle Compston kept Miller close, scoring all eight of the Purple and White’s first-period points, including six straight to trim the deficit to 11-6 despite the Falcons never getting any closer.
Compston scored the first dozen Miller markers, finishing with 20 on eight field goals and 4-of-6 free throws.
In the game’s final 26-and-a-half minutes, the Falcons never got within five — as the Rebels’ largest lead actually swelled to 19 twice (55-36 with 2:55 and 57-38 with 1:25) as part of a 21-point third-period outburst.
Landon Hutchinson had 26 of his 30 in the middle two stanzas, as Ehman had three twos in the third and Rhodes a single deuce in the quarter.
Darren Drenner with two field goals, Caleb Henry with a first-period bucket, and Dominick Johnson with a fourth-quarter foul shot rounded out the Red and Gold.
The Rebels were 14-of-23 at the free-throw line, while the Falcons were only 7-of-9.
Bartley poured in 23 of his team-high 25 for the Falcons in the second half, as Carson Starlin hit two threes and 2-of-2 free throws towards 10.
Miller made eight total treys, including one apiece by Alec Eveland and Dalton Hall.
Cole Geil garnered two field goals for four points.
The Rebels returned home, and returned to TVC-Hocking action, on Saturday night in a makeup matchup against Southern.
A win would have stretched the “MercerVegas” hot streak to 10.
“The kids have really been playing well. We have six seniors that are really battle-tested, so it’s not surprising to me that we’re on this streak,” said Howell. “Their leadership and having been in so many tight games, we’ve pulled out so many just because of their efforts and their IQ to finish games.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106