RICHMOND DALE, Ohio — Unfortunately — and ultimately — for the Blue Devils, Monday’s matchup against the McClain Tigers was a microcosm of a February to forget.
That’s because, by only scoring five points or fewer in three of the four quarters, the Gallia Academy High School boys basketball team saw its season come to an abrupt end in the Division II sectional quarterfinals at Southeastern High School.
McClain made life difficult on the Blue Devils from tip to final buzzer, as the Tigers topped Gallia Academy 46-27 in the 2016 tournament opener.
With the win, McClain moved to 5-17 —and returned to Southeastern tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 17) to play top-seeded Unioto in the sectional semifinals.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, concluded their campaign at 7-16 —and did not win any of their six games in the month of February to end the year.
Gallia Academy, after handling Jackson 48-34 on Jan. 30, finished the season on a six-game losing streak.
Just two days after struggling in a 53-40 loss at Jackson in the regular-season finale, the Blue Devils didn’t get anything going against the Tigers.
They scored just four points in each of the opening two quarters, then were done in by a five-point fourth period —with the 46-27 final score being McClain’s largest lead.
Gallia Academy trailed 19-8 at halftime and 34-22 after three quarters, and only sliced the deficit to single digits twice in the second half (29-20 and 34-25).
The loss also left the Blue Devils with a 1-7 tournament record since 2010, as that only win was a 55-45 victory over Jackson in last season’s sectional quarters.
The 2008 tourney represents Gallia Academy’s last sectional championship.
In addition to only scoring 27 points, the Blue Devils did not get to the free-throw line, attempting only eight and making only three.
McClain — on the other hand — hit 20-of-27 from the stripe, going 19-of-26 over the final three quarters.
But the Tigers’ 2-3 zone, with some length involved, took Gallia Academy out of its offensive flow from the get-go.
Randall Mischal and Zach Peck, both standing six-foot, two-inches tall along with 6-3 Jacob Starkey, simply stymied the Blue Devil gameplan.
Gallia Academy also struggled against the Ironmen’s zone defense Saturday night.
“The past couple of games, teams have played us zone and we just never found a groove,” said GAHS coach Gary Harrison. “And the past two years we’ve played our sectional here, Southeastern is not a shooter’s gym. You’re not going to get friendly rolls off the rim and the background is different. It’s just a different environment. But McClain has a little bit of length to them too, which caused us some problems. They are long and in our league (Ohio Valley Conference), there are not a lot of ‘long’ kids. But we still had shots that we didn’t make.”
In the first half, of the Blue Devils’ 21 true offensive possessions, 17 resulted in either a turnover or missed shot.
Wes Jarrell scored inside off an assist from Miles Cornwell with three minutes and 25 seconds gone by in the opening quarter.
That was Gallia Academy’s only lead, as Devin Henry hit a shot off a Jarrell assist at the 20-second mark for the next Blue and White points.
Matt Barton bagged both of the Tigers’ three-pointers in the quarter, including his first with 1:48 left to give McClain the lead for good.
Jarrell scored at the 5:52 point of the second stanza for the next Blue Devil points, but Peck scored six straight for McClain, making it 17-6 halfway through the period.
The Blue Devils’ drought of three minutes and 12 seconds in the canto ended when Kole Carter scored inside off another Cornwell assist.
But Cody Hardesty had his second field goal for McClain at the 1:37 mark to make it 19-8.
Jarrell, Gallia Academy’s top scorer, then picked up his third personal foul late in the first half — followed by his fourth just 28 seconds into the second half.
“Wes was averaging 16 points per game, and not having him in there the whole third quarter hurt us,” said Harrison. “That takes away from your offense, and allows them to play perimeter defense instead of on him in the post.”
His first field goal of the fourth quarter, with 5:12 remaining, got the Blue Devils to within nine (34-25), but his other field goal —with just 1:40 left — were the final GAHS markers.
Gallia Academy’s only other point in the period was a Drew VanSickle early foul shot.
Cornwell led the Blue Devils with nine points —all in the third period, including both of the club’s threes and a free throw.
Carter chipped in a field goal and foul shot in the third, along with an Evan Wiseman field goal.
Barton, who drained 5-of-6 fourth-quarter free throws, paced the Tigers with 11 points.
Mischal scored all 10 of his in the third frame —on two field goals and 6-of-8 freebies.
Peck posted nine points, scoring three more in the third after his second-quarter six.
Starkey scored seven on three field goals, and by splitting a pair of first-quarter free throws.
The contest was the final for six Blue Devil seniors: Jarrell, Carter, Henry, VanSickle, Russell Mathew and Clay Smith.
“I feel bad for my six seniors because I loved everything that they did for us” said Harrison. “I’ve had them for three years and they’ve gotten better. Each year, we’ve gotten better as a team. They are a big reason why our program is on the rise and they are going to be missed. They did a great job.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106