MASON, W. Va — To some surprise, Hannan hung tight with Wahama for 25-and-a-half minutes on Friday night.
However, the host White Falcons finally found their rhythm in the game’s final six-and-a-half, and thanks to a 14-1 run, Wahama held off the Wildcats for a 53-46 boys basketball victory.
With the win, the White Falcons raised their record to 8-11, while Hannan fell to 6-13.
While the Wildcats entered Friday night’s battle between Class A squads as overwhelming underdogs, they took the fight right to the White Falcons for three quarters.
The tilt was tied at 13-13 after the opening period, 31-31 at halftime, and 37-37 after three frames.
In fact, there were 11 ties and nine lead changes throughout the first 24-and-a-half minutes, as Hannan held its largest lead at 11-6, while Wahama’s largest lead through the first three cantos was 20-17.
But the game got going Wahama’s way with six-and-a-half minutes remaining, with Hannan holding a 41-37 advantage.
A 12-1 White Falcon rally ensued over the next 4:50, as a pair of nine-point leads — including at 51-42 with 55 seconds to play — were Wahama’s largest.
Wahama head coach Ron Bradley basically explained execution was much better by his team in the fourth period.
“That’s exactly what we talked about. We didn’t play well, they out-hustled us and we missed a lot of easy shots in the first half. The kids finally realized that we were in a ballgame and we were going to have to do the right things to pull this out,” said Bradley. “Luckily, we did down the stretch. We picked up the intensity and hustle. We got four baskets right in a row attacking the middle of their zone and getting to the basket. The second one ended up a three-point play. I felt if we could get up six, seven or eight points, we could hold the ball outside and make them chase us a little bit and we did. We got some easy baskets there in the fourth quarter.”
Those four easy baskets belonged to Phillip Hoffman, as he scored in the lane — in between the Wildcats’ 2-3 zone — on four consecutive possessions.
The first was at 4:23 to forge the game’s 12th and final tie at 42-42, then his catch-and-drive for an old-fashioned three-point play 40 seconds later gave the White Falcons a three-point lead (45-42) on the 10th and final lead change.
Exactly a minute later, Hoffman’s hook from about six feet found the bottom of the net, before a final drive and score off a pass at the 1:40 mark.
Hoffman had the assist on the next possession, as Noah Litchfield scored with 55 seconds left to make it 51-42.
Litchfield then made both of the double-bonus free throws for the other nine-point (53-44) edge with 19 ticks to play.
Speaking of 19, Hoffman had a team-high 19 points on eight total field goals, as he hit a pair of first-half three-pointers along with a pair of second-quarter deuces.
Litchfield finished with 14 points with six field goals, five of which were in the opening three quarters.
The White Falcons dominated the Wildcats 2-1 in rebounding, out-boarding the guests 38-17, including 21-8 in the first half.
Litchfield finished with a dozen for a double-double, while Hoffman and Nolan Pierce pulled down nine boards apiece.
“I knew if we could get the ball inside, we could get some good looks and rebounds. Hannan doesn’t have a lot of size and we needed to play inside-out,” said Bradley. “A theme all year for us has been being able to get an easy look, but not getting the ball in the basket. Or we would create a turnover and go down and miss a layup. We just have to keep working and plugging away.”
Mason Hicks had eight points on four field goals with four steals, while Pierce and Ryan Thomas tallied five points apiece, including Pierce’s field goal and free throw which brought Wahama to 42-40 with 4:47 remaining.
Travis Kearns rounded out the White Falcons with a second-quarter field goal.
Isaiah Burgess, on seven total field goals and 4-of-6 free throws, poured in a game-high 20 points to pace the Wildcats.
He also grabbed seven rebounds.
However, Burgess scored 16 in the first half, and had 19 through three periods.
His free throw just 28 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Wildcats their last lead at 38-37.
Corey Hudnall hit a three-pointer off the wing to make it 41-37, but then Wahama went on its 14-1 run to lead 51-42.
Malachi Cade canned a free throw at the 5:07 mark, but the Wildcats didn’t score again until Hudnall hit a pair of foul shots exactly four and-a-half minutes later.
Chase Nelson notched a field goal in the final seconds for the 53-46 final.
As Wahama made its run, the Wildcats committed two turnovers and missed two shots.
Nelson netted four field goals and Hudnall 3-of-4 free throws for eight points apiece, while Cade connected on a pair of first-half three-pointers towards seven.
Dalton Coleman made a second-period trey, as the Wildcats made five first-half threes — with the only other coming from Hudnall in the fourth.
“I give Hannan credit for coming up here and playing really hard and being hungry and shooting the ball well in the first half,” said Bradley.
The Wildcats shot 50-percent (12-of-24) in that time frame, including 5-0f-14 from three, but only attempted three three-balls in the entire second half.
They finished 16-of-36 from the field — and a poor 8-of-16 from the free-throw line.
Hannan shot 6-of-14 in the second half from the stripe.
“To be honest with you, we had the game and we got out-hustled. There’s a lot of Hannan coaches in the past that would be happy losing by seven points to Wahama, but I’m pretty mad about this,” said Hannan head coach Ross Thornton. “We got out-hustled on loose balls, we turned the ball over, we missed key free throws and stopped executing. Although the score is close, I’m not happy.”
Hannan hosts Calvary Baptist Christian on Tuesday for its regular-season finale, before a likely rematch with Wahama in the Class A, Region 4, Section 3 tournament.
“We’ll probably get these guys (White Falcons) again in the sectional, and we’ll beat them,” said Thornton.
Wahama traveled to South Gallia on Saturday night for a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division makeup matchup.
It was to be the Red and White’s third game in four nights, with Wahama having played at Waterford on Wednesday.
“We’re used to that. We had five or six (games) in a stretch like that not too long ago. But these kids are young. I couldn’t do it, but these kids can rest tomorrow (Saturday) without any school,” said Bradley. “Hopefully, we’ll get our legs back under us.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2343, ext. 2106