Blue Angels claw past Bulldogs in sectional

By Paul Boggs -

Gallia Academy’s Hanna Johnson (24) goes up for a shot between Athens defenders Taylor Gregory (13) and Emma Harter during Monday night’s girls basketball tournament game at Logan High School.

Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

LOGAN, Ohio — Gallia Academy indeed encountered a roller-coaster from the free-throw line on Monday night.

In the end, however, the ride of this season goes on for the Blue Angels.

In attempting 32 free throws, but making only 13, the Blue Angels amassed enough to slip past the Athens Bulldogs 43-40 in a Division II girls basketball sectional tournament tilt inside Jim Myers Gymnasium in Logan.

Of those 32 freebies, 21 were in the fourth quarter, as Gallia Academy only made nine — but had the entire fourth frame in which to sink them.

Coupled with some defensive stops after Athens staged at least three rallies from down six or seven points, and the Blue Angels improved to 4-19 while advancing to tonight’s (Wednesday, Feb. 10) Division II sectional semifinal against top-seeded Warren.

The Blue Angels entered Monday’s matchup as the ninth seed, while the Bulldogs were the eighth seed in the Logan sectional.

Gallia Academy overcame a three-point second period to trail 19-15 with four-and-a-half minutes remaining, extending their lead to as much as seven in the second half twice.

The Blue Angels held a 28-21 advantage with only two minutes left in the third quarter, before erasing a 30-29 deficit with a 10-2 run to lead 39-32 exactly eight-and-a-half minutes later.

By the 5:40 mark of the fourth, Gallia Academy already was in the one-and-one free-throw situation, before the double-bonus went into effect with 1:47 to play.

While the Blue Angels only made 41-percent of their foul shots, they drained the most crucial ones —and even missed attempts turned into offensive rebounds which kept possessions alive.

“We had key rebounds off of our missed free throws. I told them in the huddle that free throws and rebounding will win the basketball game and it did,” said GAHS coach Joe Justice. “We did a good job rebounding on both ends, even though we didn’t make many free throws.”

In a span of 50 seconds in the double bonus, the Blue Angels only made 3-of-8, and thus nursed a 40-37 lead inside of a minute.

But Athens’ Taylor Gregory —after her rebound putback made it 39-37 GAHS at the one-minute mark —missed a game-tying three-point attempt and Carley Shriver secured the rebound with 39 seconds to play.

Shriver sank calmly both free throws, as Athens’ Alexis McCollum missed another trey try with 21 seconds showing, as Jalea Caldwell collared the rebound for Gallia Academy.

Caldwell split her two tosses for a 43-37 cushion, as McCollum canned a buzzer-beating triple for the 43-40 final.

Although, that was the final of only five made threes for the Bulldogs, which attempted 21 for only 24-percent.

Athens held a 16-14 advantage in total field goals, but got to the free-throw line only five times — four in the first half and none in the entire fourth quarter.

Sophie Miller split a pair in the first quarter and Emma Harter likewise in the second, as Lauren Abdella’s old-fashioned three-point play with 1:48 left in the third was the team’s only other attempt.

For the Blue Angels, Caldwell made three foul shots in the fourth and Jordan Walker two, along with a split of tosses by Hunter Copley and Adrienne Jenkins.

The Bulldogs committed 18 fouls compared to only 10 for Gallia Academy.

Walker made a pair of freebies at the 6:10 mark of the third as well, as Caldwell led all Angels with 11 points, while Jenkins and Walker wound up with 10 apiece and Copley eight.

Hanna Johnson’s first-quarter field goal for Gallia Academy tied the game at 2-2.

Shriver and Jenkins grabbed six rebounds apiece for the Blue Angels, as Walker wound up with five while Caldwell collected four assists.

The Blue Angels regained the lead only 15 seconds into the third quarter, and held it for the entire eight minutes, as Gallia Academy opened the first six minutes of the quarter with their initial 10-2 run — capped by a Caldwell layup.

“Jalea (Caldwell) does a real nice job of getting to the bucket and finishing in transition. If not, she does a nice job of kicking it out to her perimeter players and post players. Then (Jordan) Walker and (Adrienne) Jenkins stepped up and knocked down big shots,” said Justice.

However, Abdella’s three-point play, a McCollum layup and a Gregory buzzer-beating jumper tied the bout at 28-28.

Copley canned a free throw to give Gallia Academy a 29-28 edge only 34 seconds into the fourth, but Miller made a driving layup to give the Bulldogs their final lead at 30-29 with 5:22 to go.

That’s when the Angels attacked with their decisive 10-2 run, jump-started by Jenkins sticking back a missed free throw and Caldwell scoring the next six points.

Jenkins and Walker each made free throws for the 39-32 lead with a minute-and-a-half remaining —and Miller out of the game with five fouls for Athens.

Miller led the Bulldogs with 11 points on five field goals, as McCollum added eight and Harter, Gregory and Abdella seven points apiece.

McCollum, Harter and Gregory combined for all five of Athens’ trifectas, including McCollum’s and Gregory’s corner three-balls, before one off the wing by Harter had the Bulldogs on a 10-0 spurt to open the first 3:30 of the second quarter.

Copley made a free throw for the Blue Angels’ opening point of the period just 17 seconds later, as Walker scored with just 44 seconds left.

“In the second quarter, they used a lot of clock on us by getting the rebound, getting the next shot, getting another rebound,” said Justice. “We told them at halftime that we had to make them (Bulldogs) one-and-done so we can get to the offensive end of the floor and get points.”

Gallia Academy’s 15 first-period points matched its output in the final frame, as Jenkins and Copley connected on back-to-back threes before Copley converted an old-fashioned three-point play for the 15-9 advantage after one.

Athens ended its season at 5-16 —the first following the dominant Dominique Doseck era and the first season under new head coach Paul McNeal.

The Blue Angels, instead, lived to play another night —tonight against Warren, which swept GAHS in the regular season.

“Warren is very aggressive and we have to match their intensity and not come out flat,” said Justice. “We have to continue to play all four quarters instead of coming out and playing quarters in spurts and trying to battle back in the second half. We’ll see what happens.”

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Gallia Academy’s Hanna Johnson (24) goes up for a shot between Athens defenders Taylor Gregory (13) and Emma Harter during Monday night’s girls basketball tournament game at Logan High School. Academy’s Hanna Johnson (24) goes up for a shot between Athens defenders Taylor Gregory (13) and Emma Harter during Monday night’s girls basketball tournament game at Logan High School. Paul Boggs/OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs