CENTENARY, Ohio — Any faint hopes the Logan Chieftains had of making a dark-horse charge at an elusive Southeastern Ohio Athletic League basketball championship came to an abrupt end Saturday afternoon at Gallia Academy High School.
From the outside, the new GAHS facility, located a few miles outside of Gallipolis, is one of the most attractive schools you’ll ever see; indoors, however, it’s been a basketball house of horrors for the Purple & White.
Although Logan won the first SEOAL boys basketball game played in the new GAHS gym on Dec. 22, 2009, it’s been a nightmare for the Purple & White ever since… and not even a change-of-pace afternoon makeup game could keep the Chiefs away from the dark side of another loss in Gallia County.
As Logan missed no less than six layups in the opening quarter, the Blue Devils outscored the Chieftains 15-4 in the game’s first four-plus minutes and held off several Logan rallies to hand Logan a 56-46 setback.
Gallipolis (6-10, 2-5 SEOAL), which never trailed, avenged a 52-46 setback at the hands of the Purple & White (4-9, 4-3) back in December and all but mathematically eliminated the Chiefs from the championship race.
Since that 2009 victory, the Chiefs have lost their last three games at Gallipolis by an average of nearly 15 points per game. All three losses have been by double figures.
Led by 5-foot-9 senior guard Nick Clagg, who was all over the place, the Blue Devils earned their second-straight win after breaking a five-game losing streak last weekend.
Clagg scored a game-high 15 points but, more importantly, had five steals and made numerous defensive plays to knock the ball away or disrupt the Logan offense.
“We had two really good days of practice at the end of the week and I felt good coming in here today because of that,” revealed Gallipolis coach Tom Moore. “We talk about somebody who is going to pull us, who is going to be our energy guy. It was Cody Call (last) Saturday night against River Valley (a 49-37 GAHS victory), and today it was Nick Clagg.
“His energy level pulled us through and he did an excellent job, and everybody just follows that,” he continued. “Tuesday night (when the Blue Devils host Vinton County), it might be someone else. For us to be effective, we need that energy guy to go in there and say ‘come on guys, follow me.’ And we had that today.”
The Chiefs either didn’t finish on offense or had weak and off-the-mark passes stolen or knocked away by Clagg and other Gallipolis defenders, who did an excellent job overplaying the passing lanes.
“We (had) numerous chances to cut it to three or four and just couldn’t execute on offense,” said a frustrated Logan coach John Helber. “That was one of the big things. No matter how good you are, if you hand the ball to them, they’re going to beat you. That’s what we did in the first half.”
Logan committed 20 turnovers, including seven in the first period and 11 in the first half.
“Our offense is designed to go back-door and we weren’t doing that,” Helber added. “Are we the best team around? No, we’re not. Do we have the best athletic ability? We have to rely on the intelligence of this basketball team. I thought they would (run the offense) and go back-door and do things like that. Right now we’re not doing that.”
The Chiefs weren’t helped by losing their leading scorer, senior Tristan Myers, who picked up two quick fouls and had to ride the bench almost the entire first half. He scored a team-high 14 points, with 10 of them coming in the third period.
In addition, senior guard Gaven Jourdan, the team’s second-leading scorer, quit the team on Friday, which left the Chiefs short-handed on short notice.
“When you have a kid who runs the 3-spot (on offense) for you, and you have to throw someone else in there full-time who doesn’t run it as much, it didn’t hurt as much him not being here as it hurt the position,” Helber noted. “It messed up our continuity on offense. It’s the position (not the player), and it would be that way no matter who it was.”
Clagg set the tone by turning a steal into a layup and three-point play 20 seconds into the game. Reid Eastman and Call (10 points each) both added triples, and Clagg and Call converted steals into layups, as Gallipolis opened its aforementioned 15-4 lead.
Trifectas by Anthony McNeal and Joey Cottrill (11 points), the latter a buzzer-beating three from way beyond the top of the key, got Logan within 15-10 at the end of the opening period.
The Chiefs used a stretch in which they converted 5-of-6 free throws — with sophomore Chance Cox a perfect 4-of-4 — to close within 26-23 with two minutes left in the opening half. However, a Seth Atkins jumper and two free throws by Justin Bailey (10 points), the latter with 4.3 seconds left, gave the Blue Devils a 30-23 halftime cushion.
Call capped off a 10-4 run in the third quarter with a couple buckets that gave the Blue Devils their first double-digit advantage (40-29) at the 1:51 mark, but two Myers free throws, a Josh Vermillion bucket and a steal and layup by Myers quickly pulled Logan within five.
Things got a little bizarre early in the fourth period.
Logan closed within 42-39 after McNeal scored off a Myers feed and Cottrill canned two free throws. Bailey scored from underneath off a Wade Jarrell feed but, shortly afterward, the Blue Devils were called for a foul and the same player was then whistled for a technical foul.
The first foul put Logan in the bonus, but the Chiefs missed the front end of the one-and-one and then only converted one of the two technical shots. That got Logan within four (44-40) with 4:26 remaining, but Logan never got any closer.
Gallipolis used a late 9-2 run to break the game open, with Eastman hitting a driving jumper off the baseline and Jimmy Clagg scoring down low off an Eastman drive-and-dish to begin the run. Gallipolis netted 5-of-9 free throws in the final 71 seconds to hold off the Chiefs, who missed 11 of their final 13 shots from the floor.
Craig Dunn is the sports editor of the Logan Daily News in Logan, Ohio.