CENTENARY, Ohio —Inside and out, the Gallia Academy Blue Devils were way too much of a match for the young South Gallia Rebels on Friday night.
That’s because Gallia Academy never trailed, utilized its interior size advantage, pumped in a few outside shots, and amassed as large as a 31-point lead before prevailing 65-43 in a non-league boys basketball bout.
The Blue Devils did lead 14-8 after the opening quarter, as South Gallia got no closer than 3-2 and 5-4 deficits.
But host Gallia Academy, on a night in which all of the school’s 1,000-point basketball scorers were recognized, amounted 17 and 20 markers in the middle two periods — staking cushions of 31-18 at halftime and 51-28 following three frames.
Over the opening four-and-a-half minutes of the final stanza, the Blue Devils made a 10-2 run to lead 61-30 — their largest margin of the night.
The Rebels did score 11 unanswered of their own, as Dondre Armstrong and Gage Harrison had the final two GAHS baskets — in the final minute and 12 seconds.
And, the Blue Devils did all of this despite six-foot five-inch junior center Justin Peck sitting out the entire first quarter — and Evan Wiseman missing the entire game because of the flu.
With the victory, Gallia Academy — once again bouncing back from a heartbreaking narrow loss — improved to 5-2, as the Blue Devils now begin a week-long break before their next contest.
The Blue Devils are actually five points — on a pair of three-point shots — away from possibly being undefeated.
GAHS head coach Gary Harrison, one of the individuals honored on Friday for scoring 1,000 points at his alma mater, hinted that it was important for his club to return to the court as quickly as possible.
Jackson’s Bryce Hall hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to break the Blue Devils’ hearts a week ago — 60-57.
“Our kids were devastated after the Jackson game like they were after the loss to Point Pleasant (66-64 overtime loss on Dec. 9), but these kids show a lot of resilience and they bounce back. They were upbeat their last two days at practice,” said Harrison. “We still came out a little flat tonight, but in the third quarter, we really changed the flow of the game.”
Gallia Academy outscored South Gallia 20-10 in the third, as the Blue Devils opened up a 51-23 advantage at the 1:20 mark.
Harrison credited Cory Call’s defensive play, Peck’s presence inside, and Miles Cornwell canning a three-pointer to initially double the lead at 40-20.
“Cory Call changed the complexion of the game with his defensive presence, getting deflections and getting out and running. When we can get out and run in transition, and use our speed and quickness, we’re going to be better,” said the coach. “And our bigs (Peck and Zach Loveday) ran the floor in the third quarter. We’re better when we run and that’s what we did.”
Peck posted 10 points in the third on five field goals, as Call collected two buckets along with 3-of-3 foul shots in the period.
Both Blue Devils tied for a game-high 17 points, as Peck tallied eight total field goals while Call connected for six —along with 4-of-4 free throws.
He also made a three in the fourth quarter, complementing the pair of first-quarter trifectas and dozen first-half points from Cornwell.
Cornwell converted seven of the Blue Devils’ opening 11 points, then drilled his second triple with 19 seconds left in the quarter — for the 14-8 advantage.
The Rebels, on an Eli Ellis three-ball just 35 seconds into the second canto, never got closer than 16-11 following that.
For South Gallia, the loss left it winless at 0-7, as head coach Larry Howell had a huge matchup mismatch on his hands.
The Rebels’ tallest player is six-foot three-inch freshman Austin Day, but combine Peck with 6-foot, 11-inch freshman Zach Loveday — and the Blue Devils dominated inside.
Loveday, despite no field goals and only two foul shots, did block 10 South Gallia shots to supplement a dozen rebounds.
Peck and especially Loveday forced the Rebels to shoot jump shots, as Gallia Academy maintained a 25-15 advantage in total field goals.
“We really had our hands full with both Loveday and Peck. If they throw to Loveday at the high post, we have to deal with that and Peck at the low post. If they throw to Peck at the high post, we have to deal with that and Loveday at the low post,” said Howell. “I thought we played them well in the first half, but our problem was turnovers. We can’t defend 69 possessions against that kind of size. We’re asking too much out of our defense to defend 69 possessions and against too good of a team. And Cornwell was shooting well from the outside too.”
Indeed, Cornwell was shooting well — with 15 points on six total field goals, including three threes.
“Miles ended up with 15 points and I knew he was in a rhythm,” said Harrison. “He made two threes and a two in the first quarter, and he didn’t have any turnovers. That’s what I expect from my senior and hats off to him. He did a great job.”
Justin McClelland netted nine points on three field goals and 3-of-4 foul shots, including eight in the first half.
Blaine Carter, by splitting a pair of fourth-quarter free throws, rounded out the Blue and White scoring.
Caleb Henry, on four field goals and five freebies, paced the Rebels with 13 points.
Curtis Haner hit two deuces and two treys towards 10, while Josh Henry — on two baskets and two charity tosses — scored six.
Austin Stapleton with a two and a three in the fourth, Day with a pair of second-half field goals, and Bryce Nolan notching two fourth-quarter free throws rounded out the Rebels.
South Gallia will host Green in another non-league tilt tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 27), while Gallia Academy is at Ironton a week from today in Ohio Valley Conference competition.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106