HILLSBORO, Ohio — Despite their best efforts, the Indians couldn’t turn the mountain into a mole hill.
Sophomore Isaac Clary netted 14 points after halftime and posted a double-double effort of 19 points and 15 rebounds while guiding the Gallia Academy boys basketball team to a thrilling 59-58 victory over third seeded Hillsboro on Thursday night during a Division II Southeast 2 sectional final in Highland County.
The 14th seeded Blue Devils (10-9) notched the program’s 18 sectional championship in school history, and also never trailed against the Frontier Athletic Conference co-champion Indians (18-4) in the process.
Early on, however, it wasn’t Clary — a 6-foot-8, 275-pound center — that gave the Red and White fits. Actually, it was another pair of underclassmen that took turns picking apart the hosts.
Freshman Kenyon Franklin buried three trifectas in helping the Blue and White build a 15-12 first quarter edge, then junior Carson Call reeled off eight points as part of a 17-16 second period push that gave GAHS a 32-28 cushion at the intermission.
Hillsboro tied things up on three different occasions at 2-all, 5-all and finally at 12-all, but a Cooper Davis trifecta just before the end of the first quarter gave the guests what proved to be a permanent lead.
The Blue Devils — who led 28-15 late in the second frame — made more of a collective effort to get Clary involved after the break, despite a continued 3-defender focus by HHS everywhere the big man went.
Clary was limited to only a handful of clean looks at the basket in the second half, but it was his ability to provide second and third chances with offensive rebounds that ultimately allowed Gallia Academy to stay out in front. Eight of Clary’s 14 second half points came on offensive putbacks.
The Indians, on the other hand, relied on some deep 3-point shooting after halftime — and it single-handedly allowed the senior-laden hosts to keep things interesting down the stretch.
HHS trailed 36-28 a little over two minutes into the second half, but a Lawton Perry 3-pointer at the 2:12 mark of the third allowed the hosts to complete a 10-6 run and whittle the lead down to 42-38. Both teams traded a basket apiece from there, giving Gallia Academy a 44-40 lead headed into the finale.
A Clary putback with 6:21 left in regulation completed a 6-2 push and allowed the Blue Devils to extend their lead back out to 50-42, and another Clary putback with 4:55 remaining kept the lead at three possessions at 54-46.
Hillsboro, however, answered with six straight points over the next 2-plus minutes to close back to within 54-42, but Clary added his final basket at the 2:13 mark and extended the edge back out to four points.
Franklin converted 3-of-4 free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to maintain a 59-55 edge, but a Quintin Captain 30-foot trifecta with 12.1 remaining made it a 1-point contest.
Gallia Academy’s ensuing inbounds play resulted in a turnover as the inbounder stepped on the line, giving HHS possession underneath its own basket.
Hunter Price’s potential game-winning three missed the mark, and so did a quick offensive putback attempt by Ryan Scott. Scott’s miss ended up in the hands of Franklin, who simply held the ball as time expired.
It is the second sectional championship for GAHS in the last four years, and it also sets up a date with another FAC co-champion in the district semifinal as the Blue Devils travel to sixth seeded Jackson on Thursday for a 7 p.m. contest.
Gallia Academy outrebounded the hosts by a 31-21 overall margin that included a 12-2 edge in the fourth quarter.
The Blue and White made 23 total field goals — including five trifectas — and also went 8-of-12 at the free throw line for 67 percent.
Clary and Franklin both paced the guests with 19 points, while Call tacked on 10 points and Brody Fellure added eight markers. Davis completed the winning tally with three points.
Hillsboro netted 22 total field goals — nine of which were 3-pointers — and also sank 5-of-9 charity tosses for 56 percent.
Captain led HHS with 19 points, followed by Perry with 15 points and Scott with 10 markers. Hunter Price and Brad Miller completed the scoring with eight and six points, respectively.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.