LONDONDERRY, Ohio — Practice made perfect.
The River Valley boys basketball team struggled to maintain leads during the regular season, but the 16th seeded Raiders used a 20-10 surge over the final 13:10 of regulation Monday night to claim a wire-to-wire 48-37 victory over visiting Circleville in a Division II sectional quarterfinal contest at Southeastern High School.
The Raiders (6-17) notched their first postseason win since the 2017 campaign, and did so in a rather convincing fashion by night’s end. The hosts shot 49 percent from the field to go along with four more rebounds and one fewer turnover than the 17th seeded Tigers (2-21).
The Silver and Black held double-digit leads in each of the first two quarters of play, but CHS ultimately managed to whittle the lead down to 24-19 entering the break.
The Red and Black made an 8-4 charge out of the halftime gates and closed to within 28-27 with 5:11 left in the third, but the Raiders answered with five straight points while holding CHS scoreless over the next five minutes.
Evan Justice did muster up a jumper just before the buzzer, however, allowing the guests to close to within 35-30 entering the finale.
The Tigers were never closer than 37-32 with 6:31 remaining, and River Valley netted three of its first four field goal attempts while increasing the lead out to 44-35 with 3:13 to go.
Dylan Fulks drove the nail into the coffin with a successful runner in the lane with 1:20 remaining, capping a quick 4-0 run that gave the hosts their largest lead of the game at 48-35.
Circleville — which went 3-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter — tacked on a Riley Gibson bucket with 56 seconds left to complete the 11-point outcome.
The Raiders — who shot 10-of-15 from the field in the second half — built a 7-0 lead three-and-a-half minutes into regulation, plus netted 7-of-14 shot attempts en route to a 15-7 first quarter edge.
Circleville managed to get the lead down to five points on three different occasions in the second stanza, but RVHS also used a quick 5-3 spurt to take a 20-10 lead with 5:14 left in the half.
Justice poured in four points as part of a 9-4 run over the final five minutes of the first half, making it a 24-19 contest at the intermission.
With the win, River Valley advances to the D-2 sectional semifinal on Wednesday night when it takes on top seeded Fairfield Union at Logan High School. Tipoff is schedule for 6:15 p.m.
Though the Raiders have an extremely tough task waiting for them the next round, second year head coach Brett Bostic was pleased that his troops were able to take that next step in the postseason.
As he noted, this whole year has been about the program taking that next step — so the hard work is paying off.
“We checked our egos at the door. We did all the little things right and everyone performed well in their roles,” Bostic said. “We were patient and took care of the ball on offense, and we were solid on the boards and on the defensive end. It was just a complete team effort. We took what we learned from those close games in the regular season and made it work for us tonight.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way the kids played because we put together a full 32 minutes of basketball in a tournament setting. It’s a big step in the right direction for the program.”
The Raiders outrebounded CHS by a 26-22 overall margin, but the Tigers did claim a 9-7 edge on the offensive glass — thanks mostly to a 4-1 advantage in the finale. The Silver and Blacks also committed 10 of the 21 turnovers in the contest.
River Valley made 22-of-45 field goal attempts overall, including a 3-of-11 effort from behind the arc for 27 percent. The hosts were also 1-of-4 at the free throw line for 25 percent.
Jordan Lambert paced the Raiders with game-highs of 28 points and nine rebounds, followed by Brandon Call and Mason Rhodes with eight markers each. Fulks was next with four points, while Cole Young and Chase Caldwell respectively added three and two points to the winning cause.
Call and Caldwell hauled down seven and five rebounds, respectively. Fulks also grabbed three caroms.
The Tigers netted 15-of-45 shot attempts for 33 percent, including a 7-of-24 effort from behind the arc for 29 percent. CHS also missed all four of its free throw attempts.
Justice paced Circleville with 15 points, followed by Gibson with nine points and a team-high six rebounds. Craig Fleck was next with eight markers, while Logan Crabtree and Brandon Parr completed the tally with respective efforts of three and two points.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.