LOGAN — In what would have been a sickening defeat on a sickly day, Jenelle Stevens saved the night — and the Gallia Academy Blue Angels’ season.
That’s because the senior Stevens, with only three seconds remaining on Monday night, sank a short-range shot to lift the Blue Angels over Athens 57-56 in a girls basketball Division II sectional quarterfinal inside Jim Myers Gymnasium in Logan.
Indeed, in a roller-coaster contest throughout, the Blue Angels enjoyed the last laugh — as fellow senior Carly Shriver found Stevens open off the inbounds play for the basket on the low block.
But the Bulldogs, which incredibly battled back from a 20-3 deficit early in the second period, almost made it another miracle at the buzzer —but Olive Harter’s half-court heave was off the rim.
Thus, Gallia Academy —with players impacted by illness along with head coach Joe Justice — advances to tonight’s (Wednesday, Feb. 15) sectional semifinal against top-seeded Sheridan.
Justice did not coach the club on Monday night, and remained home because he was sick.
“It was an interesting game to say the least,” said GAHS assistant coach Chris Tackett. “Given the whole situation with Coach Justice being sick and not being able to make the trip. When I got to the school today, I found out Coach Justice was sick, so the girls’ mindset had to be business as usual. We knew this game was going to be a dogfight and it didn’t matter who was up or who was down, we had to keep playing.”
The Blue Angels are the eighth-seeded squad in the Logan sectional, while Athens was the ninth seed.
Gallia Academy improved its record to 10-13 with the win, while the youthful Bulldogs bowed out at 5-18.
This was the second consecutive season in which the Blue Angels upended Athens in the sectional quarterfinal, although Monday’s matchup featured many more extremes.
There were six lead changes and five ties, and the score by quarters through the first three frames demonstrated the dramatic and drastic turns.
The Blue Angels opened the game by amassing the first 15 points — and led 16-3 after one.
Athens, however, in trailing 20-3 with six minutes and 52 seconds before halftime —ended the stanza on an amazing 28-6 spree to lead 31-26.
The Bulldogs then built their advantage to 35-26 with seven minutes left in the third period, but the Blue Angels ended the quarter with a 16-5 spurt to lead 42-40.
Eventually, it all came down to the final set underneath the Blue Angels’ basket.
It began once Harter had missed a one-and-one free throw for Athens with 15 seconds left —after her three-point goal gave the Bulldogs a 56-55 edge with 35 seconds to play.
Gallia Academy’s Adrienne Jenkins rebounded the Harter missed foul shot, as the Blue Angels actually inbounded the ball twice —the first of which was with 10.7 seconds to play along the sideline, with the other being with six seconds left by Shriver underneath the basket.
“It wasn’t anything fancy. I didn’t call that play. The kids made that play,” said Tackett. “We saved our timeouts for late so we can get some rest. The play was actually for Adrienne Jenkins, and the backside slip was for Jenelle (Stevens). Jenelle made the bucket. That’s one of the greatest memories she will ever have.”
Stevens scored a dozen points on six baskets for the Blue Angels —and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Alex Barnes bagged nine buckets and a free throw for a game-high 19 points, as Jenkins (four field goals) and Hunter Copley (three field goals and 2-of-5 free throws) chipped in nine points apiece.
Both Jenkins and Copley canned a three-pointer apiece, along with one by Shriver (five points), as Kimberly Edelmann added a field goal and Abby Cremeans split a pair of free throws.
Barnes also dished out four of the Blue Angels’ 10 assists.
“Alex Barnes played lights out tonight as a freshman. She has been big for us all year. But when we went box-and-one (defense) late in the game, she had to guard plus carry the workload in handling the ball,” said Tackett. “She was also our leading scorer tonight.”
The Blue Angels shot 43-percent from the field (25-of-58), which was impacted by their 4-of-20 second-period performance —that also included nine of the team’s 21 turnovers.
Athens — on the other hand — after missing its first 14 field-goal attempts and making only 1-of-15 in the opening quarter, made 9-of-13 in the sizzling 28-point second.
The Bulldogs also benefited from attempting 19 free throws and making 12, while Gallia Academy only attempted 10 and meshed four.
“We weathered the storm in the second quarter with three seniors on the bench in foul trouble. When I talked to them (Blue Angels) at halftime, I told them the senior leadership has to come in the second half. We had to be well-disciplined, we have to know our assignments on defense, stay out of foul trouble and finish the game,” said Tackett.
That the Blue Angels did, rallying from the 35-26 deficit —and building as much as three five-point leads (51-46, 53-48 and 55-50) in a matter of a minute and 10 seconds.
The final of those was with 1:35 to play, but a Kaylee Stewart three-ball from the left wing 30 seconds later — followed by Harter hitting from the key 30 seconds after that —put the Bulldogs back in front (56-55).
Athens — which started four sophomores and a freshman — ended up shooting 34-percent (19-of-56), but only went 6-of-23 for 26-percent from long range.
Laura Manderick, on seven field goals including three threes, mustered 18 points to pace the Lady Bulldogs.
Stewart secured a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, as Harter had a pair of triples en route to 13 points.
The Blue Angels now face 18-4 Sheridan, which will be played inside the Logan-Hocking Middle School’s Katie Smith Gymnasium.
Tipoff time is set for 6:15 p.m.
Tackett said staying healthy — “and not getting sick” —is paramount.
Truth be told, Gallia Academy already has been through enough illness this week.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but if we can get healthy, I think we will be alright,” said Tackett.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106