BIDWELL, Ohio — River Valley’s Jarret McCarley certainly made the final few seconds most interesting.
But Meigs’ trio of Christian Mattox, Luke Musser and Dillon Mahr made it just a tad too much for the host Raiders to complete the comeback.
The Marauders’ triumvirate combined for all but four of the club’s points on Friday night, as Meigs fended off the hard-charging Raiders 55-52 in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division boys basketball tilt.
Despite saying his team was “totally unprepared and outplayed in every phase of the game,” in his postgame media interview, Meigs head coach Ed Fry was at least relieved his squad secured the win.
The Marauders’ 55 points on Friday did mark a season-high, previously established on Tuesday night in their 53-49 victory over visiting Alexander.
“We weren’t in the proper mindset to play tonight. Just expecting to come in here and walk all over River Valley. They forgot that the River Valley kids want to win too,” said Fry. “Hopefully, it’s a learning experience, because we just didn’t come with the mental toughness that we needed. And I will take the blame for that.”
In a contest in which both teams desperately needed a win, Meigs raced out to a 23-10 lead following the first quarter — only to watch the Raiders rally, and stake a short-lived 35-33 edge just over halfway through the third period.
“We got that big lead and we got very complacent,” said Fry. “And our guys got tired out there. Early on we were pressing and running our half-court trap, but our guys got tired and the guys off the bench didn’t deliver either.”
But the Marauders responded over the next nine minutes and 13 seconds, amassing a three-pack of nine-point fourth-quarter advantages — including 55-46 with 36 seconds remaining.
However, Meigs — despite being in the bonus free-throw situation throughout the final quarter — made only 3-of-8, part of just 4-of-13 in the entire second half, after sinking 4-of-4 in the first.
“The more we shoot free throws in practice, the worse we get at it,” said Fry. “But that’s all the six inches between the ears. We’ve got to be mentally tougher.”
Fortunately for the Maroon and Gold, Mattox made a double-bonus pair with 36 seconds left — giving the Marauders their 55-46 cushion.
But McCarley made Meigs nervous inside the final half-minute, knocking down two three-pointers — and making it 55-52 with only 11.4 seconds to play.
Mattox then missed a double-bonus pair with nine ticks left, and McCarley got one last look from the top of the key to send the game into overtime.
But the shot was a shade off the mark, and Meigs held on for its second consecutive victory.
“I hugged that kid (McCarley) who missed the last shot. He should have hit it the way our kids played all night,” said Fry.
With the win, the Marauders raised their record to 2-4 — and a perfect 2-0 in the TVC-Ohio.
Despite a valiant effort in almost completing the comeback, the Raiders fell for the fifth straight time — and dropped to 1-4 with an 0-3 league mark.
For the Raiders, after allowing eight three-balls in a 61-41 loss at Wellston on Tuesday night, they allowed nine triples to go down against Meigs.
Musser made five, Mattox three and Mahr canned the other — including three by Musser and two by Mattox as part of the pivotal first period.
“We’re not used to that. We’re not a team that likes to get down like that, but I’m proud of the guys for fighting back and playing different,” said RVHS coach Bryan Drummond. “Meigs’ guys are quick and are fast off the bounce. It’s hard to play them man-to-man and we’re a man team. We did some things different defensively tonight, and it seemed to work for the last three quarters. I thought we played very well defensively for the last three quarters. But that’s still three games in a row where teams have made three-point shots on us.”
That was, in fact, the largest lead of the entire night for Meigs.
“We were 5-of-9 from three in the first quarter, but we got ‘three-happy’ there because we got the big lead,” said Fry. “We didn’t do a very good job of attacking their defense and forcing them into foul trouble. After the first quarter, they did a good job of switching up defensively, and that seemed to throw our kids for a loop.”
Musser poured in 19 points on seven total field goals, while Mattox mustered six field goals and 3-of-6 foul shots for 18 points.
Mahr managed 14 points on five field goals and 3-of-7 foul shots, as Jared Kennedy connected on a first-quarter field goal and two free throws.
The Marauders shot 19-of-55 (34.5-percent) from the field, which included 10-of-27 from two-point range — and 9-of-28 from three.
Kennedy ripped down nine of the team’s 29 rebounds, while Weston Baer had six boards and made off with five steals.
McCarley matched Musser with 19 points — as he hit four deuces, three treys and 2-of-2 foul shots.
Dustin Barber bucketed five field goals and 3-of-5 foul shots for 14 points, as Jacob Dovenbarger drilled four field goals for nine.
Rory Twyman with the game’s opening three-pointer, Patrick Brown with a first-quarter free throw, Tre Craycraft with two first-quarter foul shots, Jacob Campbell with two second-quarter freebies, and Ian Polcyn with a third-period basket rounded out the Raiders’ scoring.
The Raiders only led for 40 seconds of game time, as the tilt was tied twice with three lead changes.
River Valley reversed its first-quarter deficit with a 15-6 output in the second stanza, trailing only 29-25 at halftime — after getting as close as 27-25 with 1:55 to play.
With Meigs maintaining a 48-44 advantage with four minutes remaining, the Marauders ran exactly a minute-and-a-half off the clock, before Mattox made a drive and layup.
Then, after an airball by the Raiders, Mattox managed to split the Raider defense again only 21 seconds later — for an old-fashioned three-point play.
“We made a nice comeback and the kids battled,” said Drummond. “We just have some fundamental deficiencies on offense and defense that we have to work on.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106