MERCERVILLE, Ohio — The longest trip in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division made for the narrowest of victories.
The Waterford boys basketball team traveled over 160 miles roundtrip Tuesday night but it was all worth it as the Wildcats escaped Gallia County with a 56-55 victory over the Rebels.
The Rebels (7-11, 7-9 TVC Hocking) were held scoreless for the first 5:30 of play but rallied back to outscore Waterford (11-6, 9-3) 9-to-1 over the remainder of the opening stanza to take the 9-6 lead. Midway through the second quarter South Gallia had pushed its lead to nine points but a 6-to-1 run by the Wildcats cut the Rebel lead to 21-17 at halftime.
South Gallia extended its lead to double-digits six minutes into the second half forcing Waterford to pull its starters. The WHS reserves outscored the Red and Gold 5-to-2 over the final two minutes of the third to cut the SGHS lead to 35-27 headed into the fourth.
The Rebels began the finale with a 12-6 run, expanding their lead to a game-high 14 points with 3:20 remaining in regulation. Waterford began to claw its way back and cut the lead to one point, 54-53, with seven seconds to play. Rebel senior Ethan Spurlock hit a free thow to push the SGHS lead to 55-53 but Waterford’s Eli Strahler hit a long three pointer at the buzzer to give the Wildcats the 56-55 win.
South Gallia turned the ball over six times and was just 12-of-25 from the free throw line in the final quarter. The Green and Gold, which had scored just 27 points in the first 24 minutes, marked 29 points in the final eight minutes.
The SGHS scoring was led by Brayden Greer with 18 points and Ethan Spurlock with 15. Landon Hutchinson added eight points, Mikey Wheeler had five, Joesph Ehman chipped in with four, Ethan Swain had three and Gus Slone rounded out the Rebel scoring with two points.
The Rebels shot 15-of-41 (36.6 percent) from the field and 24-of-38 (63.2 percent) from the free throw line. Wheeler connected on the lone South Gallia three-pointer. As a team the hosts had 44 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and 19 turnovers.
Spurlock and Hutchinson each had 11 rebounds to pace SGHS, followed by Greer with seven and Wheeler with six. Greer finished with a team-high four assists, while Swain had two helpers in the setback. Wheeler and Swain led the defensive effort with a steal each for South Gallia.
Waterford was led by Eli Strahler and Cody Paxton with 17 points each, 14 of Strahler’s came in the fourth quarter. Tryston Crawford had eight points, Jordan Welch marked four, while Wyatt Porter and Tanner Pottmeyer each had three. Mitch Ginther and Cameron Bosner both marked two points, rounding out the Wildcat total.
WHS shot 22-of-58 (37.9 percent) from the field and 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) from the free throw line. Waterford had hit four three-pointers in the win, all coming from Strahler. The Wildcats had 30 rebounds, nine assists, 13 steals and just seven turnovers.
Paxton led the way for the Green and White with nine rebounds, followed by Pottmeyer with seven. Strahler led the way with four assists, followed by Paxton with three. The Wildcat defense was led by Strahler with four steals and Paxton with three.
The Rebels celebrated senior night, honoring Ethan Spurlock, Ethan Swain, Mikey Wheeler, Gus Slone, Chris Johnson and Jared Calhoun.
The Wildcats also defeated SGHS on January 10, by a count of 45-39 in Washington County. Waterford remains in second place in the TVC Hocking, just one game behind league leading Southern. The Wildcats will host the Tornadoes in the regular season finale.