CENTENARY, Ohio — Not every team gets to start the season with a win.
The Gallia Academy girls basketball team never trailed en route to a 43-27 victory over non-conference guest River Valley, on Tuesday night, in the season opener for both squads.
The Blue Angels (1-0) scored the game’s opening basket, but River Valley (0-1) scored with 6:18 left in the first quarter to tie the game at two, the final time the game was tied. GAHS took advantage of nine Lady Raider turnovers in the opening stanza, finishing with an 11-2 run.
Gallia Academy was held scoreless for the first 5:30 of the second period, as RVHS battled back to within four points at 13-9. However, GAHS scored six straight points to widen the lead to 10, with just under two minutes remaining in the first half. The Lady Raiders outscored their host 4-to-2 over the remainder of the first half, making Gallia Academy’s lead 21-13 at the break.
The teams each scored four points over the first two minutes of the second half, but neither scored for over three minutes after that. GAHS sank four consecutive free throws — extending the lead to 12 — but River Valley ended the third period with a 5-0 run.
RVHS was held scoreless for over six minutes to start the fourth quarter, as the Blue Angels extended their lead to 35-22. In the final two minutes, GAHS with surrendered five points, but shot 4-of-6 from the free throw line and added two field goals, to seal the 43-27 victory.
“We’re starting off the season with an in-county rivalry, a big win and a confidence boost for us,” said GAHS assistant coach Chris Tackett. “This is a great building block for us, because we’re still young and still maturing. Moving forward, we like where were at.”
For the game, GAHS shot 15-of-43 (34.9 percent) from the field, including just 1-of-11 (nine percent) from beyond the arc. The Blue Angels were 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) from the charity stripe, included 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight, free throw percentage was the difference in extending the lead,” Tackett said. “We were above what we’d been tallying in the preview and in the foundation game. Putting the game out of hand with free throws in the final few minutes was crucial. That’s the difference in a tight game and one where we can sit back.”
The Blue Angels finished with 37 rebounds, including 13 offensive boards. Gallia Academy committed 19 turnovers in the win.
“At the end of the day — whether it’s your in-county rival or just a regular opponent — we have to keep our composer,” Tackett said. “It’s a big game, but we need to play within ourselves. If not, we get a little rattled and out of control, like we did tonight. Sometimes tonight, we tried to make a play when we didn’t have to.”
For the Lady Raiders, the weeks leading up to the season opener were anything but normal, as RVHS Athletic Director Richard Stephens stepped in as interim coach, when first-year head coach Ashley Davies was called away due to a family emergency. Stephens filled in as interim coach earlier in the preseason, but relinquished duties back to Davies early last week. On Friday, Stephens learned that he needed to step in again.
“Our kids are in a tough spot right now,” said Stephens. “I had a practice with them on Saturday to get them ready for this. I didn’t get to scout and I didn’t get to see them play. Again, our girls are in a tough spot, but they played their hearts out and never gave up. They trust in me 100 percent, they trust in our coaching staff and they left everything on the floor.”
The Lady Raiders shot just 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from the free throw line and 12-of-52 (23.1 percent) from the field, including 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We talked about trusting the offense and trusting each other offensively, and I think they did that,” Stephens said. “I got them settled down in between quarters and they started taking care of the basketball. They started trusting the offense and doing what I know they’ve been taught to do.”
After the nine-turnover first period, the Lady Raiders only committed five over the remainder of the game. For the game, RVHS finished with 30 rebounds, including 12 offensive.
“We have a young team and a sophomore point guard in Beth Gillman,” Stephens said. “She did a great job and I can’t say enough about how she played tonight, against a pretty pressured defense. She grew up really fast tonight.”
GAHS senior Carly Shriver led all scorers with 14 points, while classmate Adrienne Jenkins added 11. Hunter Copley poured in nine points for the victors, while freshman Alex Barnes scored four in her debut. Kimberly Edelmann and Macey Siders both scored two for Gallia Academy, while Jenelle Stevens chipped in with one point.
Copley pulled in a game-best 10 rebounds, while Stevens and Shriver each had eight boards. Shriver, Copley and Jenkins each had two assists for the Blue and White, while Jenkins led the defensive effort with one steal and one block.
River Valley junior Jaden Neal led the guests with 12 points, followed by Erin Jackson with nine and Maggie Campbell with six.
Jackson hauled in nine rebounds to lead RVHS, while Campbell, Neal and Jessica Steele each added five. Jackson also led the Lady Raiders in assists and steals, with four of each.
These teams are scheduled to meet again on February 4, in Bidwell.
On Thursday, River Valley will visit Fairland, while GAHS will travel to Point Pleasant.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.