BELPRE, Ohio — For the Tornadoes, 2017 is started off with a bang.
In its first game of the new year, the Southern boys basketball team claimed a 56-51 victory over Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division host Belpre, on Friday night in Washington County.
The teams fought through four lead changes in the first eight minutes of play and were tied at 13 at the conclusion of the opening stanza.
The Tornadoes (5-4, 4-2 TVC Hocking) scored the first 12 points of the second period and led 25-13, with 3:39 left in the half. Belpre (2-7, 2-3) snapped out of the drought with a seven straight points, but Southern scored the final three points of the half and headed into the locker room with a 28-20 lead.
The Golden Eagles scored the first six points of the second half, cutting the Tornado lead to one possession, but Southern answered with a two-pointer and led 30-26. With 4:37 left in the third, BHS senior Deijon Bedgood sank his third free throw of the quarter, giving the Golden Eagle his 1,000th career point. Bedgood — who finished with a game-best 27 points — is the 14th member of the BHS 1,000-point club.
After Bedgood’s free throw — which cut the SHS lead to three — the Golden Eagles went on a 11-to-7 run and took a 38-37 lead, with 1:19 left in the third. Southern immediately regained the lead with an old-fashioned three-pointer, at the 1:11 mark of the third, but Belpre sank a pair of free throws before the end of the quarter, tying the game at 40.
Southern scored the first two points of the finale, but Belpre claimed the next four and led 44-42 with 6:00 left. SHS regained the lead with a two-minute, 4-0 run, but the Golden Eagles tied the game at 46, with 3:58 to play.
The Tornadoes scored the next five points and expanded the lead as high as seven, 55-48, with 30 seconds to go. The SHS lead was trimmed to four points with a BHS trifecta at the 20-second mark, and the Tornadoes left the door open, missing a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left.
The Golden Eagles committed a charge with 11 seconds left — giving the ball back to the Purple and Gold — and Southern sank a free throw with 10 seconds to play, sealing the 56-51 victory.
“A road win at Belpre is good, they’re a talented team,” 10th-year SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell said. “It was a big night for them, with Bedgood scoring his 1,000th point. To win on this night, at their place, I don’t know if our guys understand that this is a really nice win for us.”
The Purple and Gold won the rebounding battle by a 42-28 count, despite BHS winning the offensive glass by a 10-8 margin. Half of Belpre’s offensive rebounds came in the third period, when the Golden Eagles made a run.
“The third quarter was not real good again, that’s been kind of a nemesis of ours,” said Caldwell. “In the third quarter we were giving up offensive rebounds. We started limiting their offensive rebounds, but we still had some turnovers that we have to get fixed.”
For the game, Southern committed 27 turnovers, while Belpre gave the ball away 13 times. The Tornadoes held a 17-to-12 edge in assists, while Belpre won the steals battle by a 14-to-4 count.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” Caldwell said. “I’m really proud of the kids, they had a good week of practice. We didn’t get to practice yesterday, but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were good practices. We haven’t been playing great, but I think tonight was a step in the right direction.”
Southern senior Crenson Rogers led the way for the Purple and Gold with 22 points and nine rebounds. Blake Johnson had nine points and five assists for the guests, while Tylar Blevins chipped in with eight points, 10 rebounds and the game’s lone blocked shot.
Trey Pickens and Weston Thorla both scored six points for the victors, with Pickens grabbing a game-best 11 rebounds. Dylan Smith posted four points, five assists and a team-best three steals for SHS, while Trey McNickle added one point in the triumph.
Bedgood finished with a double-double of 27 points and 10 rebounds for BHS, while Logan Adams added 13 points. Brandon Simoniette scored five points, while Mythius Houghton marked four points and team-highs of five assists and eight steals. Rounding out the Golden Eagle offense were Nate Godfrey with two points and Ryan Simoniette with one point.
Southern had lost back-to-back games prior to Friday night, while the Belpre losing skid is extended to four games. These teams are scheduled to meet again on January 31, in Racine. Southern has seven games scheduled between meetings with the Golden Eagles.
“We have some really tough teams coming up,” Caldwell said. “We had everybody healthy this week and worked hard on our defense. We worked on running our offenses and doing things the right way, offensively. We’re going to be alright, we just have to keep working. These guys understand that things are going to get better as we continue to work.”
The Tornadoes return to action on Tuesday in Racine, when they host Meigs in a non-conference tilt. Belpre is slated to return to the court in TVC Hocking play on Monday, at Federal Hocking.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext.2100.