ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Unfortunately for the Rebels, they have been down this road before.
But this time, it became apparent there was not going to be a magical late-game comeback.
Too many missed easy shots, too many unforced turnovers and too many missed free throws doomed young South Gallia yet again on Wednesday — as the Rebels fell to Belpre 59-45 in a Division IV boys basketball sectional semifinal inside Meigs High School’s Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium.
The Rebels only led for 40 seconds, and gained their only advantage (3-2) on an Eli Ellis three-pointer just 37 seconds into the contest.
Belpre seized control from there, leading for the final 30 minutes and 12 seconds —and extending its margin to exactly 15 points four times (29-14, 41-26, 51-36 and 54-39).
The Golden Eagles amounted runs while the Rebels endured — especially in a tournament setting — epic scoring droughts.
The tide-turning spree covered the final 57 seconds of the opening quarter and the first minute and 15 seconds of the second stanza —when Belpre boasted 10 unanswered points to lead 25-11.
From there, the Golden Eagles maintained an advantage ranging anywhere from eight to 15 points, as the Rebels trailed 31-21 at halftime and 41-26 following three periods.
Baskets by Caleb Henry had the Rebels within eight points twice (29-21 and 34-26), as South Gallia’s only single-digit deficit in the entire fourth quarter was at 43-34 following a Curtis Haner three-pointer.
But by then, the Red and Gold’s golden opportunities to dent into the Belpre bulge had all but disappeared.
South Gallia shot poorly, especially from close range, and only netted nine of their 20 free-throw attempts.
However, Wednesday wasn’t the first night that these Rebels had experienced a frustrating loss.
It was just their last until next season begins — when they hope to benefit from lessons learned.
“Tonight was very similar to several games we had this year. We missed a lot of easy bunnies that had we made, it’s a different ballgame. Turnovers that led to points on the other end for them. We were 9-of-20 at the free-throw line. It’s all those things that come back around and bite you,” said SGHS coach Larry Howell. “Games aren’t won on the three-point line. They are won on the free-throw line and around the basket. That’s something we’re going to have to work on in the offseason.”
The Rebels have arrived at that offseason — ending their long campaign at 3-20, with a sweep of winless Federal Hocking in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division counting for two of those.
However, South Gallia did lose six bouts by three points or less, including against the same Golden Eagles in the league 10 days ago.
On Valentine’s Day, the Rebels fell behind but rallied more than once —before falling 65-62 in double overtime.
On Wednesday, the Golden Eagles answered Ellis’ three-ball with nine unanswered points in a span of two minutes and eight seconds to lead 11-3.
Jerimiah Stitt scored eight of his 10 points in the opening quarter, although an 8-4 South Gallia spurt got the Rebels to within 15-11 at the 1:17 mark.
But Belpre scored the final five points of the period, as well as the first five of the second —capped off by a Brandon Simoniette three-pointer to make it 25-11 at the 6:45 point.
“We’ve had those stretches all year where we miss layups and don’t score, and all of the sudden, we’re down double digits and having to play from behind,” said Howell. “They ran a 1-3-1 (zone) this time that we hadn’t seen from them (Golden Eagles), but regardless of zone offense, we still had to make shots.”
In the third period, Deijon Bedgood’s trey from the left wing made it 34-22 Belpre, but those were the Golden Eagles’ only points in the opening four minutes and 48 seconds of the quarter.
South Gallia got no closer than 34-26 at the 3:42 mark, as the Golden Eagles ended the period by scoring seven unanswered.
“We came out in the third quarter and got stops on I think six straight possessions,” said Howell. “We didn’t convert any of them.”
The Golden Eagles, which went 17-of-25 for 68-percent from the foul stripe, attempted all but five freebies in the second half.
Bedgood meshed a perfect 5-of-5 in the fourth quarter, part of 6-of-7 overall as part of his game-high 19 points.
Logan Adams ended up 3-of-4 from the line in the fourth, as Bailey Sprague split a pair of tosses twice in the canto.
Bedgood, with six total field goals, scored 15 of his 19 markers in the second half.
Sprague sank four field goals and 3-of-5 free throws for 11 points.
The Golden Eagles amassed a 20-16 advantage in total field goals, including an 18-12 edge in twos.
For the Rebels, Nick Klaiber and Austin Day dropped in a dozen points apiece, as Klaiber canned all of his —including two threes and 4-of-5 foul shots — in the fourth quarter.
Day dialed in for four baskets and 4-of-6 foul shots —but 11 of his 12 he scored in the opening half.
Henry had all nine of his points —on four buckets and a free throw — in the middle two stanzas.
Ellis added seven on three total field goals, while Haner had a deuce along with his trey.
Wednesday was the final game for four South Gallia seniors: Josh Henry, Joey Woodall, Harley Lay and Lucas Chung.
Which means, with the exception of Henry and Woodall, the entire Rebel roster that played significant minutes this season returns.
“We will have just about everybody back, but there is a lot of work in the offseason we need to do,” said Howell. “I’m proud of the fact that we competed well in games the second half of the year, but we still need to do those little things that win ballgames. Hopefully, we’ll work and turn some of those losses this year into wins next year.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106