RACINE, Ohio — The beginning was the difference in the end.
The Southern boys basketball team hit six of its first seven shots and forced seven first quarter turnovers en route to an early 20-9 lead and never looked back Tuesday night during a 53-31 victory over visiting South Gallia in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Meigs County.
The Tornadoes (4-2, 3-2 TVC Hocking) trailed 3-2 in the opening moments of regulation, but the hosts countered with an 11-2 surge that turned a one point deficit into a comfortable 13-5 cushion with 4:10 left in the opening canto.
The Rebels (0-6, 0-4) retaliated by trading baskets with SHS over the next three minutes for a 17-9 contest, but a Weston Thorla trifecta with 24 seconds left allowed the Purple and Gold to secure a 20-9 advantage after eight minutes of play.
SGHS never came closer than seven points the rest of the way, which occurred at 20-13 following a Josh Henry basket with 6:51 left in the first half.
Trey Pickens capped a small 5-0 run over the next three-plus minutes with a trifecta at the 3:22 mark, giving the hosts a 25-13 edge. Southern went on to hold a double-digit lead the rest of the night and closed the half on a small 4-2 spurt for a 29-15 intermission advantage.
Thorla gave SHS its largest lead of the night at 40-18 following a basket at the 1:56 mark of the third canto, then both teams closed the period with six points apiece for a 46-24 contest headed into the finale.
Caleb Henry capped a 6-1 SGHS run with a basket at the 3:13 mark that whittled the deficit down 47-30, but the Tornadoes closed regulation with a 6-1 run to wrap up the 22-point triumph.
For the game, Southern claimed a 37-25 advantage in rebounds — which included a 9-6 edge on the offensive glass. South Gallia finished the evening with 15 turnovers, while the hosts committed only 10 miscues.
Afterwards, SHS coach Jeff Caldwell noted that it wasn’t a perfect night from his troops. He did, however, point out that it was more than enough of a collective effort to help end a two-game losing skid.
“We’ve really stepped up our defensive work over the last few days and our offensive selection has been a little rushed at times this year,” Caldwell said. “Tonight, we did a really good job of being patient and getting quality looks. It also seemed that everyone did a much better job of playing their roles tonight.
“It wasn’t a perfect showing of execution on the offensive end, but I’ll take the effort and we did really try to execute the things that we want to do. It’s a win and we’ll just look to get better from here.”
SGHS coach Larry Howell, conversely, acknowledged that the slow start was a back-breaker, but he also noted that his kids showed a lot of heart and resiliency in dropping their sixth straight decision.
“We’ve got a scrappy bunch of kids that just play their hearts out every night, but we can’t afford to have a lot of things go wrong for us early in a game,” Howell said. “The early start hurt us and we were never able to dig ourselves out of that, but give Southern a lot of credit for that because they came out and put some pressure on us and we didn’t handle it very well.
“Honestly, we were out-manned tonight … but our kids never gave up through all of it. With the way these kids work, it’s all going to come together for us real soon on the scoreboard. We just have to keep learning and keep getting better every day.”
The Tornadoes connected on 21-of-49 field goal attempts for 43 percent, including a 4-of-16 effort from behind the arc for 25 percent. The hosts were also 7-of-9 at the free throw line for 78 percent.
Tylar Blevins led SHS with a game-high 14 points, followed by the inside tandem of Rogers and Pickens with a dozen points apiece. Pickens added a team-high nine rebounds and Rogers hauled in eight caroms.
Dylan Smith was next with eight markers, while Thorla and Jonah Hoback respectively wrapped up the Southern tally with five points and two points.
The Rebels netted 11-of-34 shot attempts for 32 percent, which included a 1-of-8 performance from three-point range for 13 percent. The Red and Gold were also 8-of-16 at the free throw line for 50 percent.
Caleb Henry paced South Gallia with nine points, followed by Josh Henry with eight points and Curtis Haner with five markers.
A.J. Woodall was next with four points and Austin Stapleton chipped in three markers. Eli Ellis and Lucas Chung concluded the Rebel tally with a point apiece.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.