LOGAN, Ohio — The Blue Angels indeed were full of battle.
Unfortunately for Gallia Academy on Wednesday night, they were often empty on opportune offensive possessions.
As a result, the Blue Angels’ basketball season came to an end inside Jim Myers Gymnasium in Logan, as the top-seeded Warren Warriors advanced past Gallia Academy 53-45 in a Division II sectional semifinal.
The underdog Blue Angels — seeded ninth in the Logan sectional — ended their season at 4-20, while Warren raised its record to 15-7 — and advanced to Saturday’s sectional championship game against fourth-seeded Jackson.
The Warriors swept all three of their meetings against Gallia Academy this season, including twice in the regular season — as part of the final year of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.
In fact, the first matchup saw Warren wallop the Blue Angels 92-33.
But Gallia Academy almost pulled off a massive upset on Wednesday, rallying from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to trail just 51-45 with 15 seconds to play.
In fact, following a missed free-throw attempt on a Warren one-and-one situation, the Blue Angels had the ball with 12.6 seconds left.
But, like many of their possessions, Gallia Academy committed an unforced turnover — and Warren’s Katie Rauch registered the final basket for the eight-point (53-45) final score.
While Warren was without the injured Molly McCutcheon, the Warriors forced 27 Blue Angel turnovers — and committed only seven fouls.
The Blue Angels amassed 48 rebounds to the Warriors’ 32 to try and keep within range, but Gallia Academy only shot 29-percent from the field (17-of-58).
“We played hard, but just missed easy bunnies (short-range shots) and had too many turnovers. We’ve done that all year, though,” said GAHS coach Joe Justice. “We want to play at a fast pace, but we have very small room for error. In the first half, we really put ourselves in a bind due to missing layups and not taking care of the ball.”
The Blue Angels never led, despite the game’s only tie at 2-2 on a Jalea Caldwell putback only a minute-and-a-half in.
The Warriors scored three consecutive field goals over the next two minutes, and Gallia Academy’s only other deficit within six was 8-3 on an Adrienne Jenkins free throw.
Gallia Academy trailed 17-9 after the first quarter, 29-17 at halftime, and 38-27 following three periods.
The Blue Angels trailed by double figures for 11 minutes and seven seconds, before battling back for three nine-point deficits at 30-21, 36-27 and 38-29.
Finally, GAHS —on a steal by Caldwell and layup by Hunter Copley —got to within 47-40 with 2:55 remaining.
But an Emily Jackson jump shot for the Warriors, combined with Adrienne Lang landing two free throws, made it a double-digit deficit again only 1:13 later.
Two free throws by Jordan Walker and Copley canning her third three-pointer trimmed the deficit down to 51-45, but the Blue Angels finally ran out of gas — and ultimately out of time.
“We had it (deficit) down to nine three times, then all of the sudden it’s back up to 13, 14 or 15. It’s just getting over that hump and having confidence in themselves that we can do this,” said Justice. “When we finally got it down to seven, I believe we had a little bit of confidence. Then Copley hit a big shot to get it down to six, and we had the ball again but then had that last turnover.”
Copley canned six total field goals, including three threes, to lead all scorers with 18 points.
She drained two triples and scored 11 of her 18 in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback bid.
Jenkins added four field goals for nine points, while Walker (two field goals and 3-of-4 free throws) and Carley Shriver (three field goals) scored seven points apiece.
After Jackson’s layup gave the Warriors their largest lead of the fourth quarter at 15 points (47-32), Shriver and Copley connected on back-to-back threes as part of an 8-0 Gallia Academy run.
Warren was guilty of 20 turnovers, including nine in the fourth quarter which helped fuel the Blue Angels’ rally.
Caldwell, who led GAHS with 11 points in Monday’s sectional quarterfinal win over Athens, scored just two first-period field goals against the Warriors.
Copley and Walker both made 3-of-4 free throws, as Gallia Academy only attempted 10 —the same number the Warriors made.
A Copley trey and 2-of-2 foul shots, along with Walker’s first field goal and 1-of-2 freebies, kept the Blue Angels at a dozen-point deficit at halftime.
The Blue Angels added five field goals in the third frame, including three by Jenkins to trail by 11.
Walker grabbed a fourth (12) of Gallia Academy’s rebounds, while Caldwell caromed seven.
Jackson, off the bench, paced Warren with six field goals and 3-of-4 foul shots for 15 points.
She scored 13 of those in the second half, while Lang —on five field goals and 4-of-6 free throws —finished with 14, including four field goals in the opening quarter.
Kate Liston and Peyton Bowe added eight points apiece — and combined for all three of the Warriors’ three-pointers.
Bowe bagged two and Liston one, all in the first half, while Liston went 3-of-4 from the foul line.
Bowe and Lang grabbed eight rebounds apiece, while Rauch recorded three field goals and Autumn Roddy one.
Wednesday’s loss marked the final game for GAHS seniors Walker and Hanna Johnson, along with the team’s foreign exchange student Koko Higa.
“Those two seniors mean a lot to me. They stepped up and played big roles this year,” said Justice, completing his third year as the Blue Angels’ head coach. “Hanna was in her first year in the program, but came on strong at the end of the season. Jordan was one we counted on for rebounds and scoring. Both of them are going to be missed.”
However, a solid nucleus should return.
“Everybody should be back for next year. I’ve told the girls all year long that they are a very talented team. We just have to have the energy and effort each night for 32 minutes to be able to compete all the time.” said Justice.
Perhaps a precursor came on Wednesday night, when the Blue Angels indeed were full of battle.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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