CENTENARY, Ohio — They appear to be peeking at the right time, but Friday night the Blue Devils were also pecking at the right time.
Junior Justin Peck scored a season-high 34 points while guiding the Gallia Academy boys basketball team to an 81-57 victory over visiting Portsmouth in an Ohio Valley Conference contest on Senior Night in Gallia County.
The Blue Devils (16-6, 10-4 OVC) honored seniors Miles Cornwell and Dondre Armstrong before the game for their years of service and dedication to the program, then the hosts proceeded to ‘Peck’ away at the Trojans in the wire-to-wire triumph.
Peck scored 12 points in the opening stanza as part of the Blue and White’s 20-9 first quarter surge, but PHS (16-6, 9-5) limited the 6-foot-5 inside presence to just four points during a 22-18 second quarter run that allowed the Blue and White to secure a 38-31 cushion at the break.
With 6-foot-11 freshman Zach Loveday missing the final two-plus minutes of the third and the opening 4:09 of the finale due to foul trouble, Gallia Academy continued to ride Peck’s hot hand inside — which helped the hosts ultimately wear down the Trojans.
Daniel Jordan opened the third stanza with an old-fashioned three-point play that allowed the guests to close to within 38-34 just 28 seconds in, but the Red and Blue ultimately never came closer.
Peck scored 10 points as part of a 16-7 run over the next 6:30 for its largest lead of the third at 54-41, but Reese Johnson answered with a basket with 23 seconds remaining as PHS closed the gap down to 54-43 headed into the fourth.
Mike Malone capped a small 8-5 Portsmouth run with a bucket at the 5:24 mark that cut the deficit down to 59-51. The Trojans, however, were never closer down the stretch.
Gallia Academy’s ensuing possession resulted in a lob pass that Peck somehow converted into a layup, which led to quite a roar from the home side of the gym. That basket also started a 22-6 charge over the final 4:46 of regulation and GAHS also scored the final eight points of the game — six of which came on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting effort by Armstrong.
The Blue Devils picked up their fourth consecutive win and also claimed a season sweep of the Trojans after posting a 48-43 decision in Scioto County back on January 20. GAHS also secured sole possession of second place in the final OVC standings, while PHS fell to third out of eight teams.
Fourth-year GAHS coach Gary Harrison was very pleased with the way things played out over the course of the night, much like he has been for most of the regular season.
And the scary thing is … better days might still be coming.
“This one was for second place in the league, and we were predicted to finish last in the league at the beginning of the year, so this was an unbelievable night for the kids and our program,” Harrison said. “We’ve won 10 of our last 12 games and I really think that we are starting to peak at the right time. We’ve met a lot of our regular season goals, but our main goal at the beginning of the year was to get back to the Convo … and that’s what we are going to start focusing on right now.
“As for the festivities tonight, both Miles and Dondre mean a lot to this program and to me. I’ve coached both of those great young men since they were in seventh grade. They are good leaders and good role models, so I’m glad that we were able to send them out with a win.”
Gallia Academy made four of its 30 total field goals from behind the arc and also went 17-of-25 at the free throw line for 81 percent.
Peck made 14 two-point field goals and went 6-of-9 at the line en route his game-high 34-point performance, with 18 of those coming after the break. Evan Wiseman was next for GAHS with 20 points, with 13 of those coming in the first half.
Armstrong added six points, followed by Loveday and Cory Call with five markers apiece. Cornwell, Kaden Thomas and Gage Harrison each contributed three points, while Blaine Carter wrapped up the winning tally with two points.
The Trojans netted five of 21 total field goals from three-point range and also went 10-of-13 at the charity stripe for 77 percent.
Kendal Reynolds paced PHS with 15 points before fouling out of the contest with just under three minutes left, while Jordan and Malone respectively chipped in 14 points and 10 markers.
D.J. Eley was next with eight points and Connor Gambill contributed six points, while Dakota Reynolds and Ty Oliver rounded things out with two markers each.
Gallia Academy — a five seed — will open Division II postseason play on Friday night when it travels to Southeastern High School for a sectional final contest against fourth-seeded Waverly at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.