ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — After 15 minutes of play, the Spartans flipped a switch.
The Meigs boys basketball team led by 15 points with a minute left in the first half, but Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division guest Alexander scored 17 consecutive points and never trailed again on its way to a 54-41 victory on Friday in Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium.
Meigs (7-8, 4-4 TVC Ohio) took the lead for the first time at 10-9, 4:10 into play, and stretched the advantage to 20-12 by the end of the opening quarter.
Alexander (11-1, 7-1) scored the first two points of the second period, but the Marauders claimed 12 of the next 15 and led 32-17 with 1:18 left in the half. The Spartans made a three-pointer, a two-pointer and a pair of free throws in the final minute of the half, trimming the Marauder lead to 32-24 at the break.
Meigs was held off the board for the first 3:45 of the second half, with the guests going on a 10-0 run to take a 34-32 lead. MHS freshman Coulter Cleland hit a layup with 4:12 left in the third, tying the game at 34, but the Marauders were scoreless for the remainder of the period and went into the finale down 39-34.
MHS senior Nick Lilly sank a two-pointer to start the fourth quarter, making it a one-possession game, but a three-minute drought allowed the guests to open a 45-36 lead. The Maroon and Gold went on a 5-to-2 run, cutting the AHS advantage to six points, but the Spartans scored seven unanswered points to cap off the 54-41 triumph.
Following the setback, first-year MHS head coach Jeremy Hill praised the Marauders’ hard work.
“I am commending our team’s effort, we really played our butts off tonight,” said Hill. “We put together a good game plan, and we probably executed for at least 20 minutes really well, but we had some unforced turnovers that bit us in the butt.
“These kids, with the senior leadership all the way down to the freshman, they don’t play like freshman, they just work their tails off for me. They work so hard, and I can’t give them a win, I can’t buy them a win, but they deserved a win tonight.”
After hitting 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) field goals in the first half, the Marauders finished shooting at a 14-of-48 (29.2 percent) clip for the game. MHS was 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) from three-point range in the contest, missing all-9 attempts in the second half.
Alexander connected on 20-of-50 (40 percent) field goal attempts, including 4-of-11 (36.4 percent) three-point tries. Both teams made 10 free throws, MHS in 17 tries for 58.8 percent and AHS in 16 attempts for 62.5 percent.
The Spartans won the rebounding battle by a 37-to-24 tally, including 15-to-8 on the offensive end. The Marauders committed 13 turnovers, two fewer than the guests. The Maroon and Gold collected nine steals and five assists, while Alexander finished with nine assists, six blocked shots and three steals.
MHS junior Weston Baer led the hosts with 21 points, 19 of which came in the opening half. Coulter Cleland and Nick Lilly scored five points apiece for Meigs, with Cleland marking team-highs of three assists and four steals, and Lilly grabbing a team-best nine rebounds.
Cole Betzing scored four points in the setback, while Cooper Darst and Zach Bartrum added two apiece.
Dylan Mecum led the Spartans with 14 points, followed by Caleb Terry with 13 points, to go with team-highs of nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
Kam Riley scored 11 points and dished out a team-best three assists for the guests, Stone Markins added six points, while J.K. Kearns came up with five markers. Rounding out the winning tally were Matt Brown with three points and Trey Schaller with two.
Next, Meigs hosts Vinton County on Friday.
“We played a very nice ball club,” Hill said. “Guess what? We play another one on Friday. Vinton County beat Athens tonight, so now there’s a tie for first place between Alexander and Athens. Vinton County must not be a slouch if they’re knocking off the top of the league. We’ll work hard and get prepared for it.”
The Spartans also defeated Meigs earlier this season, winning 64-53 on Dec. 14 in Albany.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.