GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — On Monday night, Elijah McDonald dropped in a school record 13 three-pointers.
On Thursday night, the senior sharpshooter drilled 13 free throws.
And, those one-point foul shots were just as important as those three-balls, as Ohio Valley Christian School — in its boys basketball home opener on Thursday— pushed past the Cross Lanes Christian School Warriors, 63-54.
OVCS only trailed 2-0, scored 17 consecutive points, extended its advantage to as large as 20 (27-7) only eight minutes and 45 seconds in, then held off a Warrior comeback bid in the final six minutes.
Cross Lanes Christian, a rival of the Defenders, cut the deficit to seven three times in the fourth quarter — including the first instance at 48-41 with 6:08 remaining.
But by entering the final frame in the one-and-one bonus free-throw situation, and actually in the double bonus for the final 6:23, the Defenders fended off the Warriors with made foul shots — 14 to be exact in the final period.
McDonald, who at Covenant Christian canned 13 threes to set a new OVCS boys single-game record, made 13-of-16 free throws on Thursday — including 10-of-12 in the final stanza.
“Elijah is a great free-throw shooter and generally shoots around 90-percent. He’s the person we want on the line for sure,” said OVCS coach Steve Rice. “They (Warriors) got down and when you get down, the only thing you can really do is foul to come back. I basically told my guys with the lead it’s layups or free throws and that’s it. We don’t want to take any bad shots. As long as we weren’t turning the ball over, we were winning the game.”
Justin Beaver, who sank 6-of-8 at the stripe, bagged 4-of-5 in the final canto.
Both Beaver and McDonald poured in 22 points apiece, as McDonald made four field goals while Beaver bucketed eight.
Austin Ragan, on five first-half field goals which included three threes, rained in 14 points — as Hollis Morrison made a deuce and a trey to round out the Defenders’ scoring.
Ragan split a pair of free throws, giving OVCS a 20-of-26 night — compared to only 7-of-9 for the Warriors.
The Defenders maintained anywhere from a seven to 14-point advantage over the final 7:15, as the Warriors didn’t reach their other seven-point deficits (59-52 and 61-54) until the final minute or 10 seconds.
With the victory, OVCS won its second straight to improve to 2-1, while Cross Lanes Christian slipped to 4-3.
“Cross Lanes is one of our rivals, so anytime we beat them, it’s a big win. This is our home opener, we’ve got six new players this year, we’re a work in progress and it will be that way all season. But as long as we improve the whole way, that’s what we are looking for,” said Rice.
And, Rice did see increased intensity by the Defenders — along with improved defense and rebounding, especially against the taller Warriors.
OVCS outrebounded Cross Lanes 24-16, as Beaver ripped down 15 boards — while Ragan recorded seven.
“I think he (Beaver) had 15 rebounds and he wanted the ball,” said Rice. “As a team, we boxed out really well, which allowed him a little bit more space to go get the ball and he did. He went after the ball tough too.”
The Warriors also shot only 5-of-16 from three-point range.
Ryan Corbin, on seven field goals and 4-of-5 free throws, paced Cross Lanes with 19 points — as Casey Legg landed 15 points on three twos, two threes and 3-of-3 at the line.
Legg scored a field goal just 43 seconds in, but the Warriors’ next points — after 17 straight by OVCS — didn’t occur until the 53-second mark of the opening quarter.
“We talked about coming out with intensity, because the first two games this year we’ve came out flat. This game, we wanted to make sure we got up early on them. Guys came out, they were hitting their shots just the way you wanted them to,” said Rice. “Our guys were moving a lot better and communicating a lot better on defense, we were rebounding a lot better than what we’ve been doing.”
McDonald made his only triple to make it 20-5, as his stickback to beat the first-quarter buzzer made it 22-7.
He then converted a pair of technical-foul free throws only 17 seconds into the second period, as Ragan’s final of his three trifectas made it 27-7 just 28 seconds later.
For the final 16 minutes and 17 seconds, the Defenders’ lead ranged anywhere from seven to 15 points.
The Defenders return to action on Tuesday, and return to the road when they travel to Wayne County (W. Va.).
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106