BIDWELL, Ohio — Both teams went running out of the gates.
The River Valley boys basketball team let a 12-point third quarter lead slip away, but answered with a 14-3 charge over the final 5:32 of regulation Friday night while rolling to a 49-40 victory over visiting Eastern in a non-conference matchup in Gallia County.
The host Raiders (1-0) trailed only 18 seconds of the 32-minute affair as the Eagles (0-1) overcame a 35-23 deficit with 14 unanswered points, allowing the Green and White to secure their only cushion at 37-35 with 5:50 remaining.
Chase Caldwell, however, buried a trifecta on River Valley’s next possession for a 38-37 edge … and ultimately sparked a 14-1 surge over the next 5-plus minutes that allowed the Silver and Black to wrap up the 9-point triumph.
RVHS forced eight first quarter turnovers while building early leads of 3-0 and 5-2 before claiming a quartet of 5-point advantages, the last of which led to a 13-8 edge through one period.
The Raiders opened the second stanza with a Cole Young 3-pointer for their largest lead of the first half at 16-8, but the Eagles countered by hitting 3-of-4 shot attempts to close back to within 18-14 with 5:09 remaining.
EHS was never closer before halftime and suffered a bit of a blow as Mason Dishong picked up his third personal with 4:32 left, forcing him to the sideline until after the break.
River Valley closed the quarter with a small 6-5 spurt and took a 24-19 lead into the intermission.
Colton Reynolds hit consecutive buckets for Eastern as part of a small 4-2 run that closed the gap down to a possession at 26-23 with 6:09 left in the third, but the hosts retaliated with nine straight points while taking their largest lead of the game at 35-23 with 3:20 left in the third period.
Eastern, however, reeled off four straight points over the next 85 seconds, then made 1-of-2 free throw attempts on a technical foul with 29.6 seconds left — making it a 35-28 contest headed into the finale.
Reynolds capped a 7-0 run with a field goal that tied things up at 35-all with 6:15 left in regulation, then Reynolds gave the guests their only lead 25 seconds later with a basket that capped a 14-0 charge.
Caldwell followed by giving River Valley a permanent lead 18 seconds later, then Jordan Lambert scored 10 markers during an 11-3 run over the final 4:10 of the victory.
Eastern shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and held an 11-8 edge on the glass, but the guests never led in the opening 16 minutes … due in large part to 13 turnovers before the break.
RVHS, conversely, netted just 9-of-21 field goal attempts and committed nine miscues before halftime, but the hosts also converted the only three trifectas of the first half.
The difference in the final outcome came in the second half, with the Raiders outrebounding the guests by a 17-11 margin as each squad committed five turnovers.
River Valley netted three of the four trifectas after the break and also went 5-of-9 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, while the Eagles made only 4-of-7 charity tosses down the stretch.
RVHS second year coach Brett Bostic noted that the little things made a big difference — particularly what his squad was able to pull off after the intermission.
“We did a nice job of getting some stops on the defensive end, but we really challenged the kids at halftime to do a better job on the boards and to keep the turnovers down,” Bostic said. “At the end of the night, we did those things and just enough of everything else to get out of here with this win.
“Give Eastern credit, they played us hard and they always play hard under Coach Kight. We did enough of the little things to get this win … and this was the kind of win that was earned. It gives us a little momentum to work with to start the year.”
The Eagles ended up having three players foul out in the final three minutes of the game, but EHS coach David Kight noted that his troops picked up some valuable knowledge and experience in this season opening loss … something the second year mentor believes will pay dividends later on this year.
“Our kids gave us four quarters of effort, but we just couldn’t get that big play when we needed to. Rather it was a rebound or a basket, we just never could get past what River Valley was doing,” Kight said. “We dug a hole and we got out of it briefly, but give them credit because they made the plays when they needed to make them down the stretch.
“We had some guys step up as we were in some foul trouble, so we did gain some valuable experience tonight … and there were a lot of other encouraging things out there. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it’s also the first game of many … so we have plenty of time to bounce back from tonight. The effort was there though, and that I cannot complain about.”
The Raiders outrebounded EHS by a 25-22 overall margin that included a 9-7 edge on the offensive glass. The hosts also committed 14 turnovers, four fewer than the Eastern’s final tally of 18 miscues.
River Valley netted 17-of-42 field goal attempts for 40 percent, including a 6-of-14 effort from behind the arc for 43 percent. RVHS was also 9-of-15 at the free throw line for 60 percent.
Lambert paced the Raiders with a game-high 27 points, with 16 of those coming after the break. Caldwell and Brandon Call were next with six points apiece, while Young and Dylan Fulks contributed three points each.
Mason Rhodes and Jordan Burns completed the winning tally with two points apiece. Lambert hauled in a team-high nine rebounds and eight different Raiders handed out one assist each in the triumph.
Eastern made 17-of-35 shot attempts for 49 percent, including a 1-of-6 effort from behind the arc for 17 percent. The guests were also 5-of-15 at the charity stripe for 33 percent.
Reynolds paced EHS with 16 points, followed by Garrett Barringer and Trevor Morrissey with eight markers each. Dishong was next with four points, while Blake Newland and Matt Blanchard completed things with two points apiece.
Barringer and Dishong both led the Eagles with seven rebounds. Reynolds and Newland handed out two assists apiece in the setback.
River Valley travels to Symmes Valley on Tuesday and Eastern makes its home debut Friday when it welcomes South Gallia.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.