MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Unfortunately for host South Gallia, Valentine’s Day turned out to be a night of heartbreak.
That’s because the Rebels, in battling back from an early deficit to force a pair of overtimes, lost to the Belpre Golden Eagles 65-62 on Tuesday night in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division boys basketball tilt.
The Rebels trailed by as much as 28-17 with 3:45 to play in the second quarter, but rallied to stake their initial lead at 40-37 —only 23 seconds into the final stanza.
South Gallia then trailed 51-48 following a pair of Belpre made free throws, but Eli Ellis answered with a three-pointer out of the corner with 8.3 seconds remaining — eventually forcing the first overtime.
After both squads scored six points apiece in the first extra session, as Belpre scored four followed by four from South Gallia, the contest took on a second extra period —with the Eagles making four free throws in a span of 20 seconds to lead 65-62 with 35 seconds to play.
In the end, Ellis misfired from three-point range with 10 seconds left, and Caleb Henry’s fallback three-ball attempt — at the 2.5-second mark — fell short.
For young yet snake-bitten South Gallia, it was another game of playing hard and competing, but being unable to find a way to win.
It was the Rebels’ third consecutive loss by three points or less, having lost at Eastern 40-39 and at Wahama 46-45 on a buzzer-beater just last week.
In all, the Red and Gold have dropped six bouts this season by three points or less, including two in overtime — with Wahama at home being the other.
The Rebels fell to 3-18 with the loss — and 2-13 in the TVC-Hocking.
The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, improved to 8-7 in the league — part of 8-13 overall.
South Gallia could also not account for Belpre’s Mythius Houghton, who erupted for 27 points on nine total field goals and 4-of-6 free throws.
Houghton hit five three-pointers, including back-to-back shots that made it 28-17 for the Eagles’ largest advantage.
In the fourth period, Houghton hit from deep to trim the deficit to 42-40 with five-and-a-half minutes remaining, then his corner-pocket trey four minutes later put Belpre back in front at 49-48.
With 54 seconds showing, he made two double-bonus free throws for the 51-48 advantage.
Finally, in the second overtime, with 55 seconds to play —his two tosses made it 63-60, followed by a pair from Logan Adams only 20 seconds later to make it 65-62.
Belpre’s Bailey Sprague, scoring all but two of his points after halftime, posted 13 on five field goals and 3-of-4 foul shots.
Baskets only a minute apart by Adams and Houghton made it 15-8 Eagles with 1:22 to play in the opening quarter, but three free throws by Ellis — and buckets off turnovers by Nick Klaiber and Josh Henry — quickly tied things up at 15-15.
In fact, the score stood tied after the first (15-15), third (37-37) and fourth (51-51) stanzas.
The Golden Eagles outscored the Rebels 13-8 in the second period, as Ellis scored at the six-minute mark to make it 19-17 in favor of Belpre.
However, the Orange and Black boasted nine unanswered points, as Curtis Haner stopped South Gallia’s scoring drought — with a pair of treys at the 1:23 and 55-second marks.
Another Houghton trifecta extended Belpre’s margin to 31-25 with 7:07 left in the third, and five unanswered in the middle of the frame made it 36-29.
But the Rebels rallied one last time, and Haner tied it at 37-37 with a three from the corner to beat the buzzer.
Haner then opened the fourth quarter with his fourth and final triple, giving the Rebels the lead for the next four minutes and four seconds.
In an outing in which there were seven ties, the Golden Eagles answered to knot the contest at 42-42 and 44-44, before back-to-back Josh Henry buckets made it 48-44 at the 2:52 point.
But Sprague scored inside, Houghton hit from long range off a steal, and the Golden Eagles never trailed again.
Haner paced the Rebels with 18 points, adding three deuces to his four trifectas.
Henry had 14 points on six baskets and 2-of-2 free throws, while Caleb Henry and Ellis each added a dozen.
Austin Stapleton, on an overtime field goal and 2-of-2 third-canto foul shots, scored four.
Both teams tallied 24 total field goals, as Belpre was 11-of-17 at the line — compared to 9-of-13 for South Gallia.
The matchup also marked Senior Night activities at South Gallia High School, as Josh Henry, Joey Woodall, Harley Lay and Lucas Chung were honored before the game.
The Rebels close out the regular season on Friday night — when they travel to Miller in the TVC-Hocking.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106