BIDWELL, Ohio — The thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat.
The River Valley boys basketball team led more than 30 minutes of regulation, but a Logan Blouir layup with eight seconds left ultimately allowed visiting Gallia Academy to sneak away Saturday night with a thrilling 49-47 victory in a non-conference matchup between Gallia County programs.
The host Raiders (4-10) stormed out to a double-digit lead in the after the first period and completed a wire-to-wire half by taking a 23-15 advantage into the break, but the Blue Devils (6-8) answered with a 15-6 surge that resulted in their first lead of the game at 30-29 with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
The Silver and Black, however, answered on their next possession with a pair of Mason Rhodes free throws — sparking a 4-0 run that allowed the hosts to secure a 33-30 edge entering the finale.
The Raiders took their largest lead of the fourth quarter on a basket from Brandon Call with 4:11 remaining, capping a 12-7 run that resulted in a 45-37 cushion.
And then, it all started to fall apart.
Damon Cremeens converted a putback and a pair of free throws over the next minute, allowing the Blue and White to close to within four points with 3:22 left.
Justin Wilcoxon then stole the ball away from a River Valley player at midcourt on its next possession, and Wilcoxon dribbled down for a layup attempt.
RVHS defender Cole Young followed Lee down the floor and attempted to block the shot attempt, but Young was whistled for a foul on the otherwise successful block.
Almost instantaneously afterward, River Valley was whistled for a technical foul for disputing the call — giving GAHS a quartet of upcoming free throws with 2:52 left in regulation.
Wilcoxon converted the second of two attempts, then Blouir converted the first of two tries while trimming the deficit down to 45-43 — with possession also going to the guests because of the technical foul.
Blouir converted a basket 39 seconds later, tying the game up at 45-all with 2:13 left to go.
Rhodes gave the Raiders their final lead of the game with a pair of free throws at the 1:57 mark, but Blouir answered with a pair of free throws 19 seconds later — again tying the game up at 47-all.
The Blue Devils gained possession with roughly a minute left in regulation and whittled the clock down to around 20 seconds before starting up their winning play.
Coming from the top of the key, Blouir made a back-door cut and received a pass from the right wing in stride. Blouir made a dribble and went straight in on the right side of the rim, converting the eventual game-winning layup.
River Valley called a timeout with 7.2 seconds remaining, then went three-quarters the length of the floor before calling another timeout with two ticks showing on the clock.
RVHS inbounded the ball from in front of its bench and tried to setup a 1-on-1 matchup for Jordan Lambert on the low block, which ultimately worked — although Lambert was forced to attempt a 12-foot fadeaway.
The shot came up on the short side of the rim and bounced to the floor as the horn sounded, allowing the Blue and White to sneak away with the 1-possession outcome.
In a game that went down to the wire, GAHS coach Gary Harrison believed that his troops showed a lot of positive qualities in getting to the final outcome.
That, as he noted, was the most rewarding part of Saturday night’s triumph.
“The number one thing that we had on the board was to weather the storm. We knew Coach Bostic would have River Valley ready to play from the opening tip, so we knew that this was going to be a hard-fought battle down to the very end,” Harrison said. “I kept telling the kids to just keep battling, and to our credit … they did. We made the plays we had to make in the end. We showed a lot of character tonight.”
RVHS coach Brett Bostic, conversely, was almost at loss for words following such a gut-wrenching outcome. As he mentioned afterwards, it’s getting tougher and tougher to talk about losses after competing at a high level for a vast majority of the night.
“Our kids did everything that we asked of them. We started well, we played with intensity and we did enough things to have a chance to win this game,” Bostic said. “The effort was there, and it’s been there quite a bit this season, but it’s tough because we cannot seem to make that big play when we need to have it. These kids want to win, but we need to keep playing within ourselves and not try to do too much at certain points of the game. This was a tough one, no doubt. We just need to regroup and get ready for the next one.”
River Valley built a 16-3 lead before taking a 17-6 first quarter advantage, but Blouir poured in a six points during a 9-6 second period surge that trimmed the deficit down to three possessions entering the intermission.
Gallia Academy outrebounded the hosts by a 32-24 overall margin, including a 12-6 edge on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils also committed 11 of the 21 turnovers in the contest.
GAHS netted 18-of-48 field goal attempts for 38 percent, including a 2-of-14 effort from behind the arc for 14 percent. The guests were also 11-of-18 at the free throw line for 61 percent.
Blouir led the Blue and White with 17 points, followed by Cremeens and Isaac Clary with 11 and nine markers respectively. Cremeens and Clary also hauled in a team-best eight rebounds apiece, with Blouir also grabbing seven boards.
Cooper Davis was next with six points, with Reece Thomas and Devin Lee respectively adding three and two points. Wilcoxon completed the winning tally with a single point.
The Raiders made 17-of-42 shot attempts for 40 percent, including a 4-of-12 effort from 3-point territory for 33 percent. The Silver and Black also sank 9-of-17 charity tosses for 53 percent.
Lambert and Brandon Call paced RVHS with matching game-high efforts of 18 points apiece, followed by Rhodes with seven points and Chase Caldwell with four markers. Lambert and Call also led the rebounding attack with seven and four caroms, respectively.
The Blue Devils also claimed a season sweep following a 58-54 win in Centenary back on Dec. 20, 2019.
Gallia Academy returns to action Tuesday when it travels to Coal Grove for an Ohio Valley Conference contest at 7 p.m.
River Valley returns to the hardwood Tuesday when it travels to Point Pleasant for a non-conference matchup at 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.