WELLSTON, Ohio — In the end, the difference came down to quality … not quantity.
Despite 20 additional shot attempts in the first half and a baker’s dozen more overall, the South Gallia boys basketball team trailed the final 17:40 of regulation as seventh seeded Fairfield gradually cruised to a 63-43 victory in a Division IV sectional final Tuesday night at Wellston High School.
The 10th seeded Rebels (13-11) had more than their fair share of opportunities in the first half, as the guests forced 11 turnovers and outshot the Lions (14-9) by a sizable 35-15 overall margin by the break.
FHS, however, netted eight of those 15 shot attempts and went 12-of-14 at the free throw line to help balance out its offensive attack, while SGHS made only a dozen of its 35 field goal tries before the intermission. The hosts ended up clinging to a 30-29 edge at halftime.
All five ties and six lead changes in the game came in those opening 16 minutes, but the Red and White ultimately received a runout basket from Bryson Simmons at the 1:40 mark of the second frame — allowing Fairfield to take a permanent lead at 26-25.
The Red and Gold were ultimately never closer as the Lions used a 12-2 surge over the opening 5-plus minutes of the third to establish their first double-digit cushion, which eventually led to a 47-35 advantage headed into the finale.
Fairfield scored the opening six points of the fourth and led by at least 16 points the rest of the way en route to wrapping up the sectional title with the eventual 20-point outcome.
The Lions advance to a D-4 district semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday and face second seeded New Boston at the Ohio University Convocation Center.
The Rebels provided plenty of fits early on, particularly with their extended 1-3-1 defensive pressure. Both teams committed five turnovers apiece in the opening canto, but the difference really swung in favor of the guests following a 6-1 discrepancy in the second frame.
South Gallia was able to build leads of 3-0 and 5-3 through the opening three minutes of play, but FHS answered with a Simmons trifecta at the 4:42 mark — giving the hosts their first lead at 6-5.
Simmons ended up scoring 13 points in the first quarter, and Fairfield led by four points on three different occasions before claiming a slim 15-13 edge through eight minutes of work.
Both teams traded early second period leads before ending up tied at 20-all and again at 22-all with 2:29 remaining.
James Bentley recaptured the lead for Fairfield with a bucket at the 2:09 mark, but a Tristan Saber trifecta 21 seconds later allowed the Rebels to take their final lead of the night at 25-24.
Simmons — who had 21 first half points — provided his go-ahead basket with a layup at the 1:40 mark, sparking a small 6-4 run that gave the Lions a 1-point edge entering the intermission.
Things fell apart for South Gallia from there, starting with its opening possession 10 seconds into the second half. Fairfield came up with a steal and a Wyatt Willey layup that sparked a 12-2 run, increasing the lead out to 42-31 with 2:25 left.
Jaxxin Mabe ended South Gallia’s 5:18 scoreless drought with a basket at the 2:08 mark, then Brayden Hammond answered a FHS bucket with a score of his own with 21 seconds left — cutting the deficit down to 44-35.
The Lions, however, managed to finish off their 17-6 third quarter push in style as Bentley caught a inbounds pass from the sideline on the right wing. The big man turned and fired from 3-point range just before the buzzer sounded, and the ball hit nothing but net while giving the Red and White a 47-35 lead entering the fourth.
The Rebels made their first shot attempt with 6:24 left in regulation, but that basket also followed a quick 6-0 Fairfield run — making it a 53-37 contest.
After trading four points apiece over the next three minutes, the Lions eventually closed the final 2:44 of regulation with a 6-2 spurt. South Gallia was also held scoreless over the final 2:09 of the fourth.
Fairfield outrebounded the guests by a 30-25 overall margin, but the Rebels did claim a 13-11 edge on the offensive glass. FHS also committed 17 of the 31 turnovers in the contest.
South Gallia made 19-of-57 field goal attempts for 33 percent, including a 2-of-11 effort from behind the arc for 18 percent. The Red and Gold also netted 3-of-4 free throw attempts for 75 percent.
Hammond paced SGHS with a double-double effort of 17 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Mabe with nine points and Saber with eight markers. Kyle Northup was next with four points and six rebounds.
Jared Burdette chipped in three points during the setback, while Layne Ours completed the tally with two points. Mabe also grabbed four rebounds for the Rebels.
The Lions made 22-of-44 shot attempts for an even 50 percent, including a 3-of-8 effort from behind the arc for 38 percent. The hosts also went 16-of-26 at the charity stripe for 62 percent.
Simmons poured in a game-high 31 points, followed by Bentley with a double-double effort of 13 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Tytis Cannon was next with eight markers, while Willey contributed six points.
Tucker Watson and Conner Priest respectively completed the winning score with three and two points. Willey also grabbed six caroms for the victors.
It was the final basketball game for seniors Kyle Northup, Jared Burdette and Austin Day in the Red and Gold. The Rebels finished the year with an 8-8 mark in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.