TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Some promising signs of growth.
The South Gallia boys basketball team overcame both a horrible start and a 10-point first half deficit with a pivotal 19-6 third quarter charge before ultimately holding on for an impressive 46-43 victory over host Eastern on Friday night in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division opener for both programs.
The Rebels (2-0, 1-0 TVC Hocking) appeared doomed early on as the guests came up empty on their first 14 offensive possessions, which included four turnovers and a 0-for-10 shooting effort.
The Eagles (0-2, 0-1), on the other hand, built a 7-0 lead during that same time span and held SGHS scoreless until Jaxxin Mabe hit a field goal with 14 seconds left in the opening frame — giving the Green and White a 5-point cushion through eight minutes of play.
EHS never trailed in the first half and used a 9-4 run out of the second period gate to establish its biggest lead of the night when Derrick Metheney netted the first of two free throw attempts, making it a 16-6 contest with 5:28 left.
The Red and Gold, however, made an 11-5 surge over the remainder of the canto and entered halftime trailing by a 21-17 margin.
The Eagles made a small 4-3 run over the first two minutes of the third stanza to secure their largest second half lead at 25-20, but the Rebels answered with 16 of the final 18 points en route to taking a 36-27 advantage into the finale.
South Gallia was up by as many as 11 points (40-29) a minute into the fourth, but a Trevor Morrissey offensive putback capped a 12-2 surge that whittled the deficit down to 42-41 with 1:13 left in regulation.
The Red and Gold converted four consecutive free throw attempts over the next 40 seconds to reestablish a 46-41 cushion, but Metheney nailed a basket with 25 seconds left that cut the score back down to a single possession.
Despite opportunities for both squads, neither team came away with another point. Eastern’s final game-tying bid missed the mark and fell to the floor as the horn sounded, allowing SGHS to sneak away with hard-fought 3-point triumph.
Despite being a bit of an instant classic, the game itself also featured some less than desirable moments — particularly the combined 53 turnovers committed over the course of 32 minutes.
Both teams had 11 turnovers apiece at the break and both teams were sitting on 25 apiece when they collectively reached the 50 mark with 2:02 left in regulation. The hosts ended the night with 26 giveaways, one fewer than the victorious Rebels.
On a night in which nothing went right early on, SGHS coach Kent Wolfe was very pleased with how his troops kept battling down to the final buzzer.
Given that he had only two seniors on the floor for a majority of the evening, the third year mentor noted that his players showed an awful lot of growth as the night progressed — particularly in a tough road environment such as the Eagle’s Nest can be.
“We knew Eastern was coming in motivated to play in their home opener. We have a young group of kids and we were concerned about us being able to handle that kind of environment,” Wolfe said. “Eastern was physical with us early on and it gave us some fits, but we made the adjustments that ended up allowing us to be more aggressive.
“That might be the best effort I’ve gotten from an entire group of kids since I’ve been here. We didn’t start well and we didn’t necessarily finish well, but we did enough of everything to pass this kind of test. This isn’t an easy place for a road team to win, but we got it done because of our intensity and our collective effort. This is a really good win for us moving forward.”
For second year EHS coach David Kight, it was a very similar feeling to the Eagles’ season opening loss at River Valley. The kids played hard enough to win, yet had nothing to show from their efforts.
“We came out really aggressive early and did everything that we had discussed, but in the back of mind I knew it wasn’t good that we were up 5-0 and then a minute passed and we were still only up 5-0. Then it was 7-0, and a minute later it was still 7-0,” Kight said. “We had numerous opportunities to get that lead out to double digits and really take control of things, but we didn’t take advantage of those situations.
“South Gallia started making their run and we just couldn’t shake that timely turnover, or get that needed rebound, or get that shot to fall when we had to have it. We played hard and we left it on the floor, but we just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities given to us. That was the difference in the game.”
There was only one tie and two lead changes over the course of the evening, with each team also holding a lead of 10-or-more points.
Brayden Hammond knotted the game up at 25-all with a field goal at the 5:28 mark of the third quarter. Mabe buried a trifecta that resulted in a permanent lead of 28-25 with 3:12 left in the third frame.
The Rebels netted 6-of-10 field goal attempts during that 19-6 third quarter run, which included a 4-of-7 effort from behind the arc.
EHS, on the other hand, went just 3-of-11 from the floor — including misses on all three trifecta tries. Both squads also entered the fourth quarter with 19 turnovers apiece.
Eastern outrebounded the guests by a 30-27 overall margin, including an 11-9 edge on the offensive glass.
The Rebels made 15-of-43 field goal attempts for 35 percent, including a 5-of-18 effort from behind the arc for 28 percent. SGHS also went 11-of-15 at the free throw line for 73 percent.
Hammond paced the Red and Gold with 11 points, followed by Mabe and Jared Burdette with 10 points apiece. Layne Ours was next with nine markers to go along with a team-best six rebounds.
Kyle Northup contributed four points, while Andrew Small completed the winning tally with two points. Hammond and Tristan Saber also hauled in five caroms apiece.
The Eagles netted 14-of-47 shot attempts for 30 percent, including a 1-of-9 effort from 3-point territory for 11 percent. The hosts were also 14-of-24 from the charity stripe for 58 percent.
Morrissey paced EHS with a game-high 13 points, followed by Garrett Barringer with eight points and Mason Dishong with seven markers to go along with a game-high nine rebounds.
Ryan Dill and Matt Blanchard respectively contributed five and four points, while Metheney and Colton Reynolds completed things with three points each. Reynolds and Barringer also hauled down six boards apiece in the setback.
South Gallia returns to action Tuesday when it travels to Trimble for a TVC Hocking contest at 7 p.m.
Eastern hosted Vinton County on Saturday and returns to action Tuesday when it heads to Miller for TVC Hocking matchup at 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.