GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The kings of Gallia County are crowned, and they’re quite rebellious.
The South Gallia boys basketball team — which defeated both Gallia Academy and River Valley earlier this season — completed the season sweep of in-county opponents on Monday night, as the Rebels claimed a 56-41 victory over non-conference host Ohio Valley Christian.
South Gallia (17-5) scored the opening basket of the night, but Ohio Valley Christian (18-6) scored the next five points to grab the 5-2 lead, 2:30 into play. The Rebels regained the lead with a 5-0 run of its own, but the Defenders reeled off nine points in a row and led 14-7 with two minutes left in the first.
After exchanging three-pointers, SGHS sank the final two points of the first quarter, cutting the OVCS lead to 17-12.
The Defenders scored the next three points and held their largest lead of the night at 20-12, two minutes into the second quarter. The Rebels responded with a 10-2 run over that tied the game at 22, but OVCS reestablished its lead with back-to-back free throw makes at the 1:38 mark of the quarter. South Gallia ended the first half with a 5-0 run and a 27-24 lead on the scoreboard.
After the break, OVCS reeled off five straight points to regain the lead at 29-27. South Gallia tied the game at 29, but a Marshall Hood free throw gave the Defenders the lead back at the 5:28 mark of the third quarter. However, South Gallia took the lead for good with a 10-2 that ended the period.
The Rebels held a 39-32 lead at the start of the fourth, and the teams exchanged buckets three times to start the quarter. South Gallia clung to a 45-39 lead with 4:00 left in the game, but the Defenders managed just two points over the final four minutes of play, while SGHS scored 11 to secure the 56-41 victory.
“Ohio Valley Christian’s kids play hard, Marshall Hood played a whale of a game and Elijah McDonald shot the ball really well,” SGHS head coach Larry Howell said. “In the first quarter, our defense was like we were here, but we weren’t here. About the middle of the second quarter is when we picked up our pressure and that’s what has buttered our bread all year.”
South Gallia won the rebounding battle by a narrow 29-27 margin, with a 12-10 advantage on the offensive glass. The Rebels’ 16 turnovers were one fewer than the hosts committed.
“We’ve had a couple of really good games lately and we have a lot of confidence,” Ohio Valley Christian head coach Steve Rice said. “We played really well in the first half, we were ready to play. In the second and third quarters their pressure kind of got to us. We turned the ball over too much and a lot of it was self inflected. South Gallia has a really good defense and they set up a lot of pressure on you. They played well and I give them a lot of credit.”
Landon Hutchinson led the Rebels with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists, followed by Darrin Drenner with 14 points and six rebounds. Joseph Ehman marked 12 points and six boards, Dominick Johnson added six points, while Kane Hutchinson scored five. Cory Rhodes and Josh Henry rounded out the SGHS scoring with three and two points respectively.
South Gallia’s defense was led by Ehman and Drenner with three steals and one block each, while Landon Hutchinson added three steals.
“We thought we could take advantage inside with their 2-3 zone,” Howell said. “We struggled a little bit in the first half, but Landon Hutchinson, D.J. Drenner and Dominick Johnson got going. Our defense has been our key all year long. We want to make them feel us defensively, and make them play backwards or sideways. We have Drenner and Johnson inside and they can change some shots, so if someone makes a mistake we have an eraser.”
The Red and Gold shot 11-of-14 (78.6 percent) from the free throw line and 20-of-51 (39.2 percent) from the field, including 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from three-point range. The Rebels combined for 12 assists, 13 steals, three blocks and 16 turnovers.
“We don’t play a real deep bench and that affects us,” Rice said. “Our guys get tired pretty easy when they’re full court pressing us and that definitely hurts us. I think (South Gallia) probably thought they’d come in here and get an easy win, but we hung with them for the better part of three quarters. I’m happy with our effort, I think we gave them a pretty good game”
Marshall Hood and Elijah McDonald led the Defenders with 15 points apiece, with Hood recording a game-best 14 rebounds. Austin Ragan scored seven points and dished out a team-high three assists, while Justin Beaver marked four points and five rebounds for the Blue and Gold.
Hood blocked four shots to lead OVCS defense, while Beaver, McDonald and Dillon Ragan each came away with two steals.
The hosts shot 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from the free throw line and 15-of-43 (34.9 percent) from the field, including 4-of-18 (22.2 percent) from three-point range. Collectively, OVCS recorded nine assists, nine steals, five blocks and 17 turnovers.
Ohio Valley Christian will return to action in the OCSAA State Semifinal on Friday night at Ohio Christian University’s Maxwell Center.
“In one way, I would have rather not played tonight, just because I wanted to focus on the final four,” Rice said. “But, anytime you get a chance to play an in-county game its exciting. The boys were excited for it and I was excited for it, but we have bigger things coming up this weekend and that’s what we’re focused on.”
The Defenders will face Calvary Christian at 7:30 on Friday night.
South Gallia will begin its postseason on Wednesday when the second-seeded Rebels face 10th-seeded Southern in the sectional final at Meigs High School.
“The biggest reason I wanted to play this game was because I wanted to go into the tournament playing,” Howell said. “Southern has won three and a row and we know they’re going to battle us hard. In the past couple of years, the two seed has been a nemesis for most teams, but I think if we play well then we should be okay.”
The Rebels are 2-0 against the Tornadoes this season and will try to make it a clean sweep starting a 6:15 on Wednesday.
Prior to Monday night’s tilt OVCS honored Dillon Ragan, Andrew Sims, Justin Sizemore and Marshall Hood as part of senior night festivities.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.