LOGAN, Ohio — In the immortal words of the late Yogi Berra, “It was like déjà vu all over again.”
Gallia Academy’s tournament run ended up being a sample size of its regular season as the injury bug popped up at the wrong time Wednesday night during a 46-35 setback to Fairfield Union in a Division II girls basketball sectional semifinal at Jim Myers Gymnasium on the campus of Logan High School in Hocking County.
The fourth-seeded Blue Angels (10-13) led by two possessions at the break and were clinging to a 27-24 edge two minutes into the third quarter, but the fifth-seeded Lady Falcons (7-16) answered with a Mailyn Sunkle trifecta that tied things up at the 5:44 mark.
Moments later, Evie Wolshire gave FUHS a permanent lead with a basket at the 5:25 mark — and then the bump in the road appeared.
Alex Barnes — Gallia Academy’s leading scorer and primary ball-handler — went down with an ankle injury shortly after the Red and Black built a 29-27 edge, and the sophomore ultimately never returned to the lineup.
Without their main offensive threat the rest of the way, the Blue Angels ended up missing 17 of their final 19 field goal attempts while being outscored 17-8 over the last 12 minutes of regulation — giving the Lady Falcons an 11-point triumph.
With the victory, Fairfield Union advances to the D-2 sectional final at LHS and will face top-seeded Vinton County at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Gallia Academy started the season with four straight wins, but injuries ultimately caught up with about half of the roster over the course of the year — which included going without a pair of regular starters at different points of the season.
Following the game, fifth-year GAHS coach Joe Justice acknowledged the frustration of trying to win games without his best players being available — particularly for a group that had only one senior on the entire roster to start with.
Then again, with most of the team scheduled to return, he believes that the future of the program is in good shape.
“Our younger girls have had to step up quite a bit this year because of injuries, and tonight was not really much different than the regular season. Every time that it looked like we were ready to turn the corner, something came along and ruined everything that we had built,” Justice said. “These girls have battled all year long and they’ve grown quite a bit. There’s a lot of young talent on this team and they have the chance to be really special in the future.”
Maddy Petro scored Gallia Academy’s first six points while helping the hosts establish leads of 4-0 and 6-3, then Ashton Webb broke a six-all tie with a basket at the 3:08 mark of the opening frame.
FUHS tied the game at eight on a Braidyn Reed basket eight seconds later, then the guests took their first lead of the game with 51 seconds left as Wolshire made a free throw for a 9-8 edge after one period of play.
The Lady Falcons grew their lead out to 15-8 a little over a minute into the second stanza, but GAHS answered with a 14-2 surge over the final 6:29 of the first half — allowing the Blue and White to take a 22-17 cushion into the break.
Webb scored the opening basket of the second half, giving the hosts their largest lead of the night at 24-17 with 6:57 remaining in the third.
Fairfield Union countered with seven consecutive points to tie things at 24, but Ryelee Sipple drained a trifecta at the 6:01 mark to give the Blue Angels their final lead of the night.
The Red and Black closed third quarter on a 10-1 run for a 34-28 lead headed into the finale.
Koren Truence converted a basket 14 seconds into the fourth to close the gap down to four points, but Fairfield Union retaliated with 11 straight points en route to a 45-30 cushion with 3:34 remaining.
GAHS ended the game on a small 5-1 run and was never closer than the final 11-point outcome.
The Blue Angels outrebounded the guests by a 46-41 overall margin, but also committed 19 of the 29 turnovers in the contest.
Gallia Academy made 13-of-52 field goal attempts for 25 percent, including a 2-of-15 effort from three-point range for 13 percent. The hosts were also 7-of-12 at the free throw line for 58 percent.
Sipple led GAHS with nine points, followed by Petro with eight points and Barnes with five markers. Webb was next with four points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Macey Siders contributed three points.
Truence, Brooklyn Hill and Molly Fitzwater completed the scoring with two markers each. Sipple also hauled in 11 rebounds and Petro grabbed eight caroms.
The Lady Falcons netted 16-of-63 shot attempts for 25 percent, including a 2-of-16 effort from behind the arc for 13 percent. The guests also sank 12-of-20 charity tosses for 60 percent.
Sunkle paced FUHS with a game-high 17 points and Wolshire was next with 16 markers. Katherine Qualls was next with nine points and 11 rebounds, while Reed and Katie Burke completed the winning tally with two points apiece.
It was the final basketball game for senior Macey Siders in the Blue and White.
While paying respect to his lone upperclassmen, Justice also noted that Siders will not be the only loss to the program next year.
“It will be tough to replace a senior like Macey, someone who shows up every day ready to work. However, there are a lot of players that should be returning to this team next year … and there is a good group of underclassmen coming up to add some more to the lineup,” Justice said. “The future looks good and the program will be in good shape for whoever the next coach is.
“This is it for me because I’ve got a young family that I want to spend more time with. After five years, I’d prefer to leave the next person something to work with instead of a bare cupboard.”
Gallia Academy finished sixth in the OVC with a 4-10 league mark.
The Blue Angels last won a sectional title in 2006.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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