ATHENS, Ohio — A disappointing end to a great season.
The second-seeded South Gallia boys basketball team had it’s 2015-16 season come to a close Tuesday night, as the six-seeded Western Indians knocked off the Rebels by a 47-45 count in the Division IV District Semifinal at Ohio University.
South Gallia (18-6) — which falls to 2-6 all-time in district play — scored the game’s opening basket, but Western (13-12) answered with back-to-back three-pointers to take the lead. The Green and White sank another trifecta in the opening period and led 14-9 by the conclusion of the quarter.
SGHS cut the deficit to one-point with back-to-back buckets to open the second stanza, but the Rebels were held off the scoreboard for the next 3:30 as WHS built the lead to 20-13. South Gallia ended the half on a 5-2 run and trailed 22-18 at halftime.
The Rebels — who were outrebounded 19-to-15 in the first half — made just 7-of-27 field goal attempts, while coming up empty on all eight of their three-point tries in the opening 16 minutes.
South Gallia’s defense — which forced 11 turnovers in the first half — held WHS off the scoreboard for 3:50 to start the third quarter, as the Rebels came back to take a 24-22 lead. After a pair of lead changes, SGHS took a 32-30 lead into the final quarter.
Western began the fourth period with a four-minute, 12-2 run that made the WHS advantage 42-34. South Gallia scored the next six points and trailed by just two with 2:00 remaining in regulation. A pair of Indian field goals sandwiched around two South Gallia free throw makes gave the Green and White a four-point advantage with 55 seconds to play.
SGHS senior Joseph Ehman drained a long-distance three-pointer with 44 seconds left, cutting the deficit to one-point. Western went to the charity stripe four times over the next 30 seconds, but the Indians made just one of the four throws, leaving the door open for the Red and Gold.
South Gallia attempted to go ahead with a three-pointer, but the shot was missed and rebounded in a jump ball. The Rebels had the possession arrow, but just .4 seconds left in the game. WHS tipped the inbound pass away, giving the Indians a 47-45 win and a spot in the district final.
“I give Western credit but I don’t think it was anything they did, I think it’s what we didn’t do,” SGHS head coach Larry Howell said. “I think our defense played extremely hard, but we just played too bad on offense. We missed too many open shots, too many easy shots and too many free throws to win that game. You have to make those plays in big games if you’re going to win.”
For the game, Western held a 33-to-31 rebounding advantage, but the Rebels pulled in 14 offensive boards, two more than the victors. WHS also held a 12-to-7 advantage in assists, but South Gallia had a 14-to-6 advantage in steals, with an overall 17-to-21 edge in turnovers.
SGHS shot just 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from the free throw line and 18-of-53 (34 percent) from the field, including 2-of-18 (11.1 percent) from three point range. Western made 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) free throws and 18-of-47 (38.3 percent) field goals, including 7-of-21 (33.3 percent) trifectas.
South Gallia senior Landon Hutchinson led the Gallia County natives with 23 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Darrin Drenner chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds. Kane Hutchinson posted seven points and two assists, Joseph Ehman added five points, a team-best nine rebounds and two assists, while Caleb Henry finished with two points.
Henry led the Rebel defense with five steals, while Drenner had the only four blocked shots of the game.
WHS junior Bryce Brewster paced the victors with 19 points and six rebounds, followed by Zach Herman with nine points and four assists. Tanner Perdue recorded seven points, 13 rebounds and three assists, while Adam Smithson scored four points in the win. Lane Brewster and Ethan Dunn both marked three points for the Indians, while Dylan Stevenson rounded out the Western scoring with two points.
Herman and Perdue paced the Indians on defense with two steals each.
Western will now move on to Saturday’s district final where top-seeded Sciotoville East awaits. The Tartans needed a last-second shot to claim a 59-58 victory over fourth-seeded Belpre, on Tuesday.
Though disappointed, South Gallia — which entered ‘The Convo’ on a three-game winning streak — did exceed a lot of expectations this season.
“We lost Brayden (Greer) last year and everybody thought we were going to be done for,” said Howell. “When we lost that game with Southern in last year’s sectional, these guys were committed to getting back to ‘The Convo’. They were committed to battling for a league championship, which we did. We had a chance to win this game, the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
The Rebels will now have to say farewell to seniors Landon Hutchinson, Kane Hutchinson, Cory Rhodes, Joseph Ehman, Darrin Drenner and Dominick Johnson.
“I’m really proud of these seniors,” Howell said. “Their work ethic is what allowed them to have a record season. I can’t thank them enough and I’m proud of each and every one of them. This is the group that I started with when they were freshmen. To see where they were to where they are now is unbelievable.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.