LONDONDERRY, Ohio — Just when things seemed at their best, they took a dramatic turn for the worst.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball team battled out to a 27-26 lead with 2:31 left in the first half, but Unioto countered with a 14-0 surge over the next four minutes of play and eventually rolled to a 70-53 victory Tuesday night in a Division II sectional semifinal matchup at Larry Jordan Gymnasium on the campus of Southeastern High School in Ross County.
The sixth-seeded Blue Devils (11-11) gave third-seeded UHS (20-3) fits over the opening 16 minutes of play, as both teams battled through four ties and eight lead changes before the break. The Shermans, however, netted eight of their first 10 trifectas through three periods — which ultimately played a pivotal role in the final outcome of the contest.
GAHS jumped out to an early 6-2 lead three minutes in, but the third-seeded Sherman Tanks responded with 15-8 surge to secure a 17-14 edge after eight minutes of play.
The guests battled back with a 6-4 run to close to within a point (21-20) with 5:56 left, then Reid Eastman capped a 7-5 spurt with a pair of free throws at the 2:31 mark — giving the Blue Devils what would be their final lead of the contest at 27-26.
Alek Adkins followed with a basket at the 2:01 mark to give Unioto a permanent lead at 28-27, then Nick Corcoran drilled a pair of trifectas to cap an 8-0 run before halftime — allowing the Purple and Gold to take their largest lead of the half at 34-27.
UHS netted 5-of-7 three-pointers and went 12-of-22 overall from the field before the intermission, while the Blue Devils made 11-of-27 shot attempts overall — including a 1-of-6 effort from behind the arc. Unioto also committed nine turnovers and claimed a 13-12 edge on the glass before the break, compared to seven miscues by the guests.
The Sherman Tanks opened the third canto with a 6-0 run over 90 seconds, extending the lead out to 40-27. Jacob Streiter ended a 4:17 scoreless drought for GAHS with a basket at the 6:13 mark, allowing the guests to close back to within 11 points.
A Seth Atkins three at the 4:19 mark again allowed Gallia Academy to pull to within 11 points at 43-32, but the Blue Devils were never closer the rest of the way.
Corcoran and Nick Overly combined to hit three trifectas during an 11-8 spurt over the final four minutes, allowing Unioto to secure a 54-40 advantage headed into the finale.
The Shermans started the fourth with a 9-2 run to claim their largest lead of the game at 63-42 with 4:29 left. The Blue Devils closed regulation with an 11-7 spurt and never came closer than 66-51 with 2:49 remaining.
The outcome marks the fifth straight postseason that GAHS has failed to win a sectional game. The Blue and White last won in the postseason on Feb. 25, 2009, after claiming a 48-43 overtime decision over New Lexington in a D-2 sectional semifinal.
Gallia Academy — which reached double-digit wins in a season for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign (13-9) — hasn’t won a sectional title since the 2007-08 season.
The Blue Devils connected on 22-of-61 field goal attempts for 36 percent, including a 3-of-12 effort from behind the arc for 25 percent. The guests outrebounded UHS by a 32-29 overall margin, which included a 12-8 edge on the offensive glass.
Wes Jarrell led GAHS with 17 points, a dozen of which came in the first half of play. Seth Atkins was next with 14 points, followed by Jacob Streiter with eight points and Reid Eastman with five markers.
Alex White and Michael Putney respectively chipped in four and three points for the Blue Devils, while Wade Jarrell rounded out the scoring with two markers. Gallia Academy committed 14 turnovers and went 6-of-10 at the free throw line for 60 percent.
The Shermans made 24-of-47 floor attempts for 51 percent, including a 9-of-14 effort from three-point range for 64 percent. The hosts committed 14 turnovers and went 13-of-20 from the charity stripe for 65 percent.
Nick Corcoran paced UHS with a game-high 25 points, followed by Nick Overly with 13 points and Kyle Strange with 11 markers. Alek Adkins and Cole Cottrill also chipped in eight and six points, respectively, to the winning cause.
Unioto advances to the sectional final 7 p.m. Friday night at SEHS, where they will face second-seeded Minford. The Falcons defeated Greenfield McClain by a 54-32 count in the first semifinal Tuesday night.
Gallia Academy concludes regular season play Thursday night when it travels to Chesapeake for a varsity-only makeup contest at 7 p.m.