MASON, W.Va. — The White Falcons may have led for less than a minute in total, but they were in front when it mattered most.
The Wahama boys basketball led Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest Eastern on just three occasions, for a total of 46 seconds, in Tuesday’s showdown at Gary Clark Court. With just five seconds to play, the White Falcons took the lead for good on a put back basket by senior Noah Litchfield, giving the hosts a 43-42 win.
“We wanted Noah to attack the lane,” White Falcons head coach Ron Bradley said of the final play. “It eventually got to where we wanted it, but it was a little dicey there for a while. I’m just proud as I can be of these kids. They came out and played hard in that second half. That’s what I’ve been imploring them to do and man, they came out and did it tonight.”
The Eagles (3-6, 1-5) headed into the fourth quarter with a four-point, 32-28 lead, and extended the advantage to six points, at 35-29, with 6:00 to play. The guests maintained a two-possession edge for the next four minutes, but Wahama (3-7, 2-4) cut its deficit to one point, at 42-41, with 50 seconds to play.
With 31 seconds left the Eagles missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Litchfield grabbed the rebound for the hosts. Eleven seconds later, Bradley called a timeout to set up the final play for the White Falcons.
Litchfield missed his initial two-point attempt, but grabbed his own rebound and sank his second shot for two. The guests’ last-ditch three-point attempt bounced off the rim and sealed the White Falcons’ one-point, 43-42, win.
“During the timeout we told them that No. 33(Litchfield) was going to drive it to the hole,” Eastern head coach Jeremy Hill said. “We asked our weak-side help to stay in the middle of the floor and stay disciplined on defense, and then get the board. We didn’t do either one.
“I made a coaching error in hindsight, with not having Kaleb Hill in the game to help out with rebounding. We put an extra guard in there for defense and it left us vulnerable on the boards.”
Wahama’s only lead of the first half came at 5-4 and lasted for 22 seconds. Eastern answered with three straight buckets, but had its advantage cut to 10-9 with 2:21 to play in the opening stanza.
The Eagles extended their lead to 15-9 by the end of the first period and stretched it to double digits, at 21-11, at the 1:57 mark of the second quarter. The White Falcons’ only field goal of the second quarter cut the EHS lead to 21-13 before halftime.
“I wasn’t very happy to say the least, 21 points for the opposition is not a bad half defensively, but we have to work harder and do better things on the offensive end,” said Bradley. “It was the same story last Friday, we went to Federal Hocking and played a pretty good defensive first half, and scored 12 points. That’s been our struggle. Twice we’ve held teams under 50 points this year and lost. If we hold teams under 50 points we should win, luckily that came to pass here tonight.”
The second half began with with a 15-to-6 run by the hosts, giving WHS a 28-27 lead with 2:24 left in the third quarter. Just 19 seconds later, EHS regained the lead with a two-pointer and then the guests made a three-pointer for the 32-28 advantage headed into the fourth quarter.
In the finale, Wahama hit 5-of-14 free field goals and 5-of-6 free throws, while Eastern was 3-of-9 from the field and 4-of-9 from the foul line.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line and we played down to the pace that they wanted,” Coach Hill said. “Hats’ off to Wahama, they executed what they wanted to do tonight. They got down and they could have folded, but they keep executing the game plan. What ever the coach might ask for, that’s what the give him, and that’s what ball clubs do when they want to win.”
For the game, Wahama shot 16-of-45 (35.6 percent) from the field, including 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, Eastern was 16-of-43 (37.2 percent) from the field, including 2-of-9 (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc. From the free throw line, WHS shot 9-of-15 (60 percent) and EHS was 8-of-16 (50 percent).
The Eagles outrebounded the White Falcons by a 28-to-21 tally, including 11-to-5 on the offensive end. Both teams recorded 10 assists and four blocked shots, with the guests holding a 6-to-4 edge in steals. WHS committed 11 turnovers, two more than the Eagles.
“We played zone all night until right there at the end when we were behind,” Bradley said. “That’s not typical for us, we play predominately man-to-man, but we were all zone tonight and we were doing a pretty good job in it. It scares me a little bit to play zone because we don’t always rebound well, but they did a great job to hold Eastern to 42 points.
“This is a huge stepping stone for us. We’ve been struggling and Eastern is a quality team. They’ve beaten some good teams, and for us to knock them off is huge for our confidence.”
Litchfield led the victors with 24 points, 19 of which came in the second half, to go with a game-best nine rebounds. Brady Bumgarner scored seven points and Tyler Bumgarner added five, with both sinking a trifecta in the win. Dakota Belcher contributed four points to the winning cause, while Skylar Estep chipped in with three.
Abram Pauley recorded a team-highs of six assists and two steals for the Red and White, while Belcher rejected a game-best four shots.
Isaiah Fish led the guests with 18 points, including three from long range. Kaleb Hill had eight points and a team-best seven rebounds, while Garrett Barringer added seven points. Colton Reynolds scored five for the Eagles, Sharp Facemyer had three points on a trifecta, while Blaise Facemyer finished with one marker.
Hill and Reynolds had three assists apiece to lead EHS. Fish also paced the guests on defense with three steals and a block, followed by Hill with two blocks and one steal.
“Maybe we can get some wins from teams overlooking us,” Coach Hill said. “We have a record of 3-6, we’ve had a little bit of a layoff, but you can’t use that as an excuse because other kids are out of school and not getting to practice either.”
These teams will meet again on Feb. 6 in Tuppers Plains. Both teams are back in action on Friday, with the Eagles visiting Belpre and the White Falcons hosting Southern.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.