ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Control the glass, control the game.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball team outrebounded non-conference host Meigs by a 52-to-28 clip on Friday night at Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, leading the Blue Devils to a 70-53 victory in the season opener for both squads.
After a pair of lead changes early in the opening quarter, Gallia Academy (1-0) opened up a 10-4 lead. Meigs (0-1) tied the game at 10, 13 and again at 18, but the Marauders never regained the advantage. GAHS scored the final basket of the first quarter and led 20-18 after eight minutes.
The Maroon and Gold were held scoreless for the first 3:30 of the second quarter, as the Blue Devils opened up a 26-18 lead. GAHS outscored Meigs 16-to-7 over the rest of the period, and headed into the break ahead 42-25.
Meigs began fighting back after the half, outscoring GAHS by a 15-to-8 margin in the third quarter, to make the Blue Devil lead 50-40 with eight minutes remaining.
The Marauders opened the finale with a trifecta, cutting their deficit to single digits for the first time since the 4:15 mark of the second quarter. However, Gallia Academy rattled off three straight points and extended its advantage to 56-43.
Meigs answered with three straight field goals, including back-to-back trifectas, cutting the deficit to 56-51, with 4:05 remaining. MHS scored just two more points in the game, however, while GAHS went 8-of-9 from the free throw line in the final four minutes, to seal the 70-53 victory.
“I’m proud of the guys and I think it’s the first time in eight years that Gallipolis has started out 1-0,” fourth-year GAHS head coach Gary Harrison said. “Meigs is a good team, they’re well coached, and their 1-3-1 zone is a tough defense to play against. I give my kids credit, Meigs came within five, then we pulled away when we made good passes. Give Meigs credit, but I’m happy.”
The Blue Devil offense was led by sophomore Justin McClelland, who posted 14 points, nine rebounds and a game-best seven assists. GAHS junior Justin Peck and senior Evan Wiseman each posted a double-double for the guests, as Peck marked 13 points and 15 rebounds and Wiseman poured in 11 points to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.
GAHS 6-foot, 11-inch freshman Zach Loveday marked 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in his varsity debut, while sophomore Cory Call posted nine points and a team-best three steals. Rounding out the GAHS scoring were Miles Cornwell with eight points and Gage Harrison with three.
“It didn’t go exactly as we had planned, obviously,” said third-year Meigs head coach Ed Fry. “Honestly, we played a little intimidated. We knew they were big and we worked on that for a week or more. We wouldn’t attack them inside, and we settled for some bad perimeter shots.”
Meigs was led by senior Luke Musser with 13 points, to go with the Marauders’ only block. Christian Mattox posted 11 points and a team-best five assists for MHS, Dillon Mahr added nine points and four assists, while T.J. Williams chipped in with eight points.
MHS senior Jared Kennedy, who missed the majority of the first half in foul trouble, marked five points, six rebounds and a team-best four steals. Garrett Buckley scored four points, Devon Hawley added two points, while Zach Helton scored one point and pulled in a team-best seven rebounds.
For the game, Gallia Academy shot 24-of-51 (47.1 percent) from the field, including 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils were 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) from the free throw line, including 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) after halftime.
“We played about 50 games this summer and went to a couple different camps, and we won a lot of games because of free throws,” Coach Harrison said. “We started out struggling from the free throw line, but in the second half we were better. I think it’s just a matter of playing. We only have two seniors, so we’re young and we’re only going to get better.”
Of the Blue Devils’ 52 rebounds, 16 came on the offensive glass.
“We’re 6-11, 6-5 and then we have Evan Wiseman, who is a 6-1 guard that can rebound,” Coach Harrison said. “That’s going to be the key to our team this year. We’re big, we’re long, we’re athletic and we can rebound with anybody.”
Meigs made just 20-of-74 (27 percent) field goal attempts, including 9-of-35 (25.7 percent) from three-point range. MHS was just 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) free throw attempts. Of Meigs’ 28 rebounds, 15 were offensive.
“The difference was, we came out and attacked them inside,” Coach Fry said of what changed after the halftime break. “They’re big, but if you get them up in the air, they foul. That changed the whole course in the second half. If we’d have done that right off the bat, we’d have been far better off.”
Meigs battled foul trouble throughout the evening, committing 26 fouls — 10 more that GAHS committed — with three Marauders fouling out of the game.
“We’re going to pressure and this is not going to stop us from pressuring, we just have to learn how to play defense with out fouling,” said Coach Fry. “We can’t afford to get Jared Kennedy in that early foul trouble, because you end up moving guys to play spots where they’re not used to playing.”
For the game, GAHS had 24 turnovers, 14 assists and six steals, while Meigs had 10 turnovers, 16 assists and 13 steals.
The Marauders return to action on Tuesday, when Warren visits Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium. The Blue Devils return to action in their home opener on Friday, when Point Pleasant visits Centenary.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.