RACINE, Ohio — The Tornadoes hit their free throws when they mattered most.
In the final 12 seconds of Friday’s Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division game in Meigs County, the host Southern boys basketball team hit 4-of-4 free throws, extending its lead to two possessions twice to seal a 47-45 victory over visiting South Gallia.
Southern (7-7, 6-3 TVC Hocking) — winner of three straight games — led initially, but the Rebels (7-7, 4-5) took their first lead at 11-8 and added another two-pointer before the end of the first quarter.
The Purple and Gold regained the advantage at 21-20, with 3:27 left in the half, only to give the edge right back to the guests 24 seconds later. Southern, however, finished the half with a 5-0 run for a 26-23 halftime lead.
The Tornadoes — who never trailed after halftime — led by as many as eight points in the third quarter and settled for a 37-30 advantage headed into the finale.
SGHS was within three points, at 38-35, two minutes into the fourth, but Southern scored five of the next eight points and led 43-38 with 4:20 left in regulation. A Jaxxin Mabe three-pointer with 50 seconds left brought the Rebels to within two points, and then the hosts came up empty from the foul line eight seconds later.
The Tornadoes made a return trip to the stripe with a dozen seconds to go, with Cole Steele making both tries to give SHS a four-point cushion. A quick two-pointer by Andrew Small cut the Rebel deficit in half, but then Coltin Parker nailed a couple of free throws to give Southern another four-point edge with three seconds to go. As time expired, the Rebels hit a two-pointer, capping off Southern’s 47-45 victory.
Following the contest, 12th-year Tornadoes head coach Jeff Caldwell was pleased with his team for winning another close decision, as well as avenging a 56-51 loss at SGHS on Dec. 17.
“These games are good for us, to help us get better, because you do have to play with some toughness and just find a way to win, and that’s what we did,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t play great basketball by any means, but we found a way to win, we’ll definitely take it.
“I think were starting to get a little bit better, and we’re going to need to continue to get better. We had the lead late and I fell like we really could have really extended it if we would have hit some free throws. We hit the big ones when we had to, Cole (Steele) and Coltin (Parker), but we also had a couple turnovers and things. Overall, I thought the defense was definitely good enough in the second half to help us get a win there, so I’m proud of the guys.”
Third-year Rebels head coach Kent Wolfe acknowledged his team’s missed opportunities down the stretch, and talked about what gave Southern the edge in the contest.
“We had shots to tie the game, we just made some really bad basketball decisions,” Wolfe said. “That was a tough one to lose because we hung in there. They got up 8-or-9, and we fought back, and had an opportunity to tie the game up.
“We let (Cole) Steele have a couple threes. Our scouting report says you have to know where he’s at in the 1-3-1, and we let him slip by there. (Arrow) Drummer was just a big force inside. We had the ball stripped a few times and he was the one that got it and put it back in, he was like a man against boys down there. We just have to get stronger with it. It’s a tough one to swallow because it was a great environment on the road, and we hung in. We have to get ready, we have practice tomorrow, and we finally get a home game.”
Southern made 14-of-38 (36.8 percent) field goal attempts, including 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) three-point tries, while the Rebels were 19-of-45 (42.2 percent) from the field, including 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) from deep. At the foul line, SHS was 16-for-24 (66.7 percent) and SGHS was 1-for-4 (25 percent).
The Red and Gold claimed a 25-to-22 edge in rebounding, with both teams grabbing seven offensive boards. The hosts had 12 turnovers, three fewer than South Gallia. Collectively, the Tornadoes had 12 assists, nine steals and three blocked shots. Meanwhile, the Rebels combined for 11 assists, three steals and a block.
Drummer paced Southern with 19 points and five rebounds, combining five field goals with a 9-of-11 day at the foul line. Landen Hill contributed a dozen points and a team-best seven rebounds to the winning cause, Steele chipped in with nine points, while Parker ended with six markers. Trey McNickle scored one point for the Purple and Gold, while earning game-highs of seven assists, four steals and two rejections.
Mabe led the Rebels with 13 points, along with six boards and three assists. Jared Burdette tallied 12 points, all from beyond the arc, while Brayden Hammond claimed seven points and seven rebounds, while leading the SGHS defense with two steals and a rejection. Kyle Northup was next with six points, followed by Layne Ours with five and Andrew Small with two.
Both squads return to action on Tuesday, with Southern at Trimble, and South Gallia hosting Wahama.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.