MERCERVILLE, Ohio — A tale of two halves … and then came an extra session.
The South Gallia boys basketball team overcame a 15-point third quarter deficit to force overtime, but Noah Litchfield hit two free throws with 31 seconds left to cap a 9-8 run that allowed visiting Wahama to escape with a thrilling 68-67 victory Tuesday night in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Gallia County.
The White Falcons (5-4, 4-3 TVC Hocking) battled through one tie and four lead changes in the opening period before taking a slim 15-13 edge, but the Red and White followed with a dominant 19-8 second quarter surge that secured a comfortable 34-21 cushion headed into the break.
The host Rebels (1-9, 0-5) twice pulled to within 10 points early in the third stanza, but a Litchfield basket with 2:27 left gave WHS its largest lead of the night at 44-29. SGHS, however, made a quick 7-2 run to close out the canto for a 46-36 deficit headed into the finale.
The Red and Gold hit five of their first nine shot attempts in the fourth as part of a 13-3 charge, which allowed the Rebels to knot things up at 49-all with 4:45 remaining.
After ending up tied again at 54-all with 2:36 left, the White Falcons reeled off a 5-3 run over the next two minutes for a slim 59-57 lead.
Coming out of a timeout with less than 15 seconds remaining, South Gallia’s Caleb Henry was given the ball on a clear-out — and the sophomore forced overtime with a short jumper with seven seconds left while knotting things up at 59.
Henry converted an old-fashioned three-point play to start the extra session, then Curtis Haner drilled a corner trifecta that gave South Gallia its largest lead of the night at 65-59 with 2:23 remaining.
Philip Hoffman answered for WHS with a trifecta at the 2:12 mark for a one-possession game, then the guests caught a break as a SGHS player was whistled for a technical foul with 1:28 left.
Litchfield nailed both free throws for a 65-64 deficit, then followed with a basket on the ensuing possession that gave Wahama a 66-65 lead with 1:22 remaining.
The hosts reclaimed the lead on a pair of Henry free throws with 54.2 seconds showing, but Litchfield clinched things with two charity tosses with 31.3 left.
South Gallia managed to get a potential game-tying shot off at the end of overtime, but the attempt missed its mark. The rebound was knocked out to half court by a Wahama player, which allowed the remaining time to expire off the clock.
After committing only four turnovers in the first half, Wahama coughed up possession 15 times after the break — which included eight turnovers alone in the third period.
The Red and White, however, had only one miscue — as well as a 4-0 edge on the offensive boards — in the overtime session. The Rebels committed two of their 15 total turnovers in the extra frame.
Wahama also claimed a 44-37 overall edge on the glass, including a 14-12 advantage on the offensive end of the boards.
There were seven ties and 11 total lead changes in the tightly-contested battle, and WHS coach Ron Bradley was thankful to get out of Tuesday night on the winning side of things.
“Every win in this league is a great road win,” Bradley said with a chuckle. “We didn’t handle the pressure very well when we needed to. We didn’t do a good job of understanding the situation late with a lead, rather it be taking ill-advised shots or throwing bad passes … and it almost came back to get us. We were very fortunate to squeak this one out tonight.
“We made plays when we needed to, especially at the free throw line, and I am proud of the kids for their efforts. I also want to give South Gallia a lot of credit for how hard they played, because they played their guts out. I told our kids we’d be in for a dog fight … and sure enough we were.”
The Rebels missed their first six shots of the second quarter and finished the first half just 8-of-29 from the field. The hosts were also outrebounded 19-12 in the opening 16 minutes of play. Wahama, conversely, netted 12-of-23 shot attempts in the first half.
SGHS Larry Howell was pleased with the overall effort from his troops, but he’d also like to see a little more growth in regards to putting together four solid quarters on the hardwood.
“We had a tough first half and we challenged them at halftime to come out and play harder. That was exactly what we did, but we just dug ourselves a little too much of a hole there in the second quarter,” Howell said. “I’m proud of their efforts tonight, but I’d really like to see a little more consistency out of them. We’re halfway through the season, so we aren’t quite the young group that we were at the beginning of the year. It’s time for us to take that next step forward, and that involves playing a complete game.”
The White Falcons connected on 20-of-55 field goal attempts for 36 percent, including a 3-of-10 effort from behind the arc for 30 percent. WHS was also 25-of-38 at the free throw line for 66 percent.
Litchfield led Wahama with a double-double effort of 24 points and 13 rebounds, both game-highs. Hoffman was next with 14 points and nine boards, while Jacob Lloyd chipped in 11 markers.
Mason Hildreth and Travis Kearns respectively added eight and seven points, with Randy Lantz rounding out the winning tally with four markers. Hildreth also hauled eight caroms for the Red and White.
The Rebels netted 23-of-66 field goal attempts for 35 percent, including a 9-of-26 effort from three-point range for 35 percent. The Red and Gold were also 12-of-18 at the charity stripe for 67 percent.
Caleb Henry led SGHS with a double-double effort of 22 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Haner and Eli Ellis with 14 points apiece. Ellis also hauled in nine rebounds, while Austin Stapleton chipped in seven markers and eight caroms.
Colton Bowers was next with six points, while Josh Henry and Austin Day completed the scoring with two markers each.
Wahama now has its first winning streak of the year, while South Gallia has dropped its last two overall decisions.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.