BIDWELL, Ohio — One quick run can make, or break your entire night.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball team needed just 2:30 to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 14-point advantage and the Blue Devils never looked back, en route to a 62-50 victory over non-conference host River Valley, on Tuesday night in Gallia County.
River Valley (5-10) was held scoreless for the first three minutes of the game, as Gallia Academy (7-4) took a 4-0 lead. The Raiders took their first and only lead of the game, at 7-4, with 3:49 left in the first, but the Silver and Black didn’t score again in the period. GAHS took the lead back at the 2:47 mark of the first and pushed its advantage to 12-7 by the end of the stanza.
The Raiders cut the deficit to three points twice in the second quarter, but Gallia Academy took the 19-15 lead into the break.
“The first half was kind of methodical and slow,” fourth-year GAHS head coach Gary Harrison said. “We really weren’t used to the environment, it was loud and everything was rushed. When we came in at halftime, we settled down and took a deep breath. We thought to ourselves ‘we just have to relax and play our game’. We got out and ran a little bit in the second half and I think that’s what changed the game.”
The Blue Devils began the second half with an 11-2 run, pushing the lead to 14 points with 5:30 left in the third quarter. GAHS outscored River Valley 17-15 count over the remainder of the third, giving the guests a 47-31 lead with eight minutes to play.
The Raiders held Gallia Academy scoreless for nearly three minutes to start the fourth quarter, allowing RVHS to cut the deficit to 12 points at 47-35. The Blue Devils held River Valley scoreless for almost four minutes, however, as a 7-0 run extended the Gallia Academy lead to a game-high 19 points, with 2:18 to play.
River Valley ended the game with 15-8 run, but it was too little, too late, as the Blue Devils claimed the 62-50 victory.
“In the first half, neither team really played well,” first-year River Valley head coach Bryan Drummond said. “We went to a base defense to start the second half, and we got lost a couple of times. Basketball is a game of runs. They made a big run, we tried to stop it, we actually made a couple shots and they made them right back on us. We’re not a good shooting team, we’re a running team and we didn’t get very many fast break points tonight, that was the difference.”
After shooting just 21.2 percent from the field in the first half, Gallia Academy finished the game shooting 22-of-59 (37.3 percent) from the field, including 3-of-10 (30 percent) from three-point range.
River Valley also struggled in the first half — shooting from the field at a 21.4 percent pace — but the Raiders finished the game shooting 17-of-54 (31.5 percent) from the field, including 5-of-30 (16.7 percent) from deep.
Gallia Academy was 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) from the free throw line, while the Raiders went 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) from the line.
The Blue Devils committed 15 turnovers in the win, three fewer than RVHS.
“I think we grew up tonight,” Coach Harrison said. “As a team, we’re defiantly getting better. What really changed the game was our defense, we put pressure on the ball. They shot a lot of shots, but they were contested, and hats off to our man-to-man defense for that. I applaud Coach Drummond and his group, they played hard and you can’t take that away from them.”
Gallia Academy outrebounded the Raiders by a 40-to-39 edge, with both teams pulling in 10 offensive boards.
“We have preached rebounding since the summer and we have never rebounded like that, nor have we played a team that big or that physical,” said Coach Drummond. “I love the effort from my guys, if I could get that effort our record would be reversed, we’d be 10-5 instead of 5-10. We just have to get that effort besides when we play ‘Blue’. They’re a good basketball team, they have good, physical, young guards and good, physical big guys.”
GAHS held a 9-to-6 advantage in assists and a 10-to-7 edge in steals, but the Raiders rejected seven shots, one more than the Blue and White.
The Blue Devil offense was led by junior Evan Wiseman with 27 points, followed by Cory Call with 10 points. Miles Cornwell, Justin Peck and Zach Loveday each had six points, Justin McClelland added five, while Kaden Thomas finished with two.
Loveday marked team-highs of 16 rebounds and six blocked shots for GAHS, while McClelland posted team-highs of three assists and three steals.
The Raider offense was led by junior Dustin Barber with 19 points, followed by Jarret McCarley and Tre Craycraft with seven points each. Patrick Brown and Layne Fitch both scored five points, Jacob Dovenbarger added three, while Ian Polcyn and Jacob Campbell both contributed two points.
Dovenbarger pulled in a team-best 16 rebounds for RVHS, Fitch led the way with three assists, while Craycraft led the Raider defense with two steals and four rejections.
This is the lone scheduled meeting between GAHS and RVHS this season. Gallia Academy is 2-0 against Gallia County schools this season, leaving the Blue Devils as the only team in the county without a loss to another Gallia County team.
Both teams return to conference play on Friday, as River Valley host Nelsonville-York in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division tilt, and Gallia Academy visits Portsmouth for an Ohio Valley Conference clash.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext.2100.