BIDWELL, Ohio — The 2017-18 season is under way, and the Blue Angels began it in style.
The Gallia Academy girls basketball team never trailed en route to a 75-44 victory over non-conference host and in-county rival River Valley, on Monday in the season opener for both teams.
The Lady Raiders (0-1) tied the game for the first and only time at 2-all, with the Blue Angels (1-0) taking the lead for good on a trifecta within the opening minute of play.
Gallia Academy led by as many as 12 points in the opening stanza and held a 21-10 advantage at the conclusion of the period.
The Silver and Black cut their deficit back to single digits within the opening two minutes of the second quarter, but GAHS answered with a 6-0 run and led 27-12 with five minutes left in the first half.
RVHS trimmed the Blue Angel lead to 12 points with two minutes to play in the half, but Gallia Academy closed the half on a 9-1 run and went into the break ahead 38-18.
The Blue Angels held RVHS off the board for over three minutes to start the second half, as they extended the lead to 28 points, at 46-18. The Lady Raiders outscored Gallia Academy 15-to-10 over the final five minutes of the third period, making the Blue Angel lead 56-33 with eight minutes to play.
Aided by a dozen offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, GAHS sealed the 75-44 victory with a 19-11 spurt.
“We’re going to play fast, we’re going to look good at times and we’re going to be out of control at times,” fifth-year GAHS head coach Joe Justice said. “Our defense has to turn into offense. I thought the girls did a very good job from the tipoff to the very end, just playing solid defense.
“To win this, we were going to have to rebound and rebound well,” added Justice. “There were times in the first quarter that we gave up several put backs. We basically had to get the settled into the game and once we did, we started rebounding and getting what we like to call one-and-dones. One shot, get the rebound and get back up the floor.”
After a 22-all tie in the rebounding battle in the first half, GAHS finished the night a 56-to-34 edge on the glass, including 27-to-17 on the offensive end. The Blue Angels committed 23 turnovers in the win, while RVHS gave possession away 30 times.
“(Gallia Academy) is a good ball team, they had some real nice players and I feel like they were a little bit more aggressive than us at times,” said second-year RVHS head coach Stephen Roderick. “They got all of the 50-50 chance balls and they killed us on the boards. Our defense just isn’t where it needs to be. I’m looking to be a lot better than that defensively, because that’s how we’re going to win ball games.
“We came out and tried taking some gambles to put some pressure on them, and it backfired,” Roderick added. “We had girls trying hard, but they were a little bit nervous. We’re a young team, it’s a big game and they had some trouble in big moments, but I’m fully confident in there ability to rebound off of this.”
Gallia Academy shot just 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from the charity stripe, but was 29-of-76 (38.2 percent) from the field, including 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) from three point range. Meanwhile, River Valley made 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) free throw tries, and 14-of-56 (25 percent) field goal attempts, including 4-of-21 (19 percent) three-point shots.
Juniors Hunter Copley and Ashton Webb led Blue Angels with 19 points apiece, followed by Alex Barnes with 14. Macey Siders had seven points, Abby Cremeans chipped in with six, while Maddy Petro and Lexi Campbell both contributed four points. GAHS freshman Ryelee Sipple rounded out the Blue Angel scoring with two points in the win.
“I thought we did a good job getting the ball up the floor and I thought our press looked good at times,” Justice said. “We had some girls step up, Webb shot the ball very well tonight and Copley shot the ball well in the first half. Some of the girls who moved up from the jay-vee level stepped up tonight, grinding it out and doing some of the dirty work for us.”
Barnes finished with a game-high 18 rebounds for the victors, followed by Copley and Petro with seven each. Barnes also led GAHS on defense with five steals. Petro and Webb both rejected two shots, while Copley dished out a game-best five assists.
As a team, the Blue Angels recorded 18 assists, 14 steals and four rejections.
The RVHS offense was led by juniors Beth Gillman and Kelsey Brown, scoring 12 and 11 points respectively. Jaden Neal was next with nine points, Kaylee Tucker added four, while Kaylee Gillman and Cierra Roberts chipped in with three points each. Rounding out the RVHS scoring was freshman Hannah Jacks, with two markers.
“We have a lot of girls that are going to be just fine, as long as they can do simple things,” Roderick said. “They have all the talent in the world, some of them have a lot of athleticism, but they don’t trust themselves enough to play under control. In the bright lights and the big moments it’s very easy to get sped up, and that’s what they did to us all night.”
Jacks pulled in a team-best six rebounds for River Valley, followed by Neal and Brown with five each. Kaylee Gillman paced the Lady Raider defense with two steals, Carly Gilmore and Savannah Reese blocked one shot apiece, while Roberts earned a team-high four assists.
Collectively, the Lady Raiders had eight assists, seven steals and a pair of blocked shots.
These teams are slated to meet again on Jan. 15 at GAHS.
Next, the Blue and White will welcome Point Pleasant for their home opener on Thursday. The Lady Raiders take to the road for the first time this season on Thursday, visiting Coal Grove.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.
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