ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — The Tornadoes were certainly ready to get the 2017-18 season started.
In its season opener, the Southern boys basketball team shot over 40 percent from the field and from beyond the arc on Saturday night inside Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, as the Tornadoes claimed a 76-68 victory over non-conference host Meigs.
After trailing 2-0, Southern (1-0) answered with an 8-1 run, but the Marauders (0-2) answered with a six straight points and took the the lead back with 3:08 left in the first quarter. The Purple and Gold regained the lead just 16 seconds later and never trailed again.
Meigs tied the game at 11, 13 and 16, but Southern closed the first quarter with back-to-back trifectas and took a 22-16 advantage into the second.
The Marauders cut the deficit as low as one in the second quarter, but Southern hit five three-pointers in the stanza and headed into the half with a 43-34 lead.
After the break, Meigs began chipping away at the Tornado lead, taking it as low as three points, at 54-51 with 1:30 left in the third. Southern’s lead back to four points, at 57-53, by the end of the third period.
The Tornadoes began the finale with a 19-8 run, pushing their advantage to 76-61 with 1:14 to play. In that stretch, Southern was 10-of-13 from the free throw line and pulled in offensive rebounds on two of the three misses.
Meigs finished the game with a 7-0 run, but it was too little, too late, as SHS took the 76-68 win.
“Credit goes to our guys, they came out with a lot of confidence,”10th-year SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell said. “They were knocking down the open shots and that’s what you have to do. We did shoot the ball very well overall, but I thought we also made the extra pass and found the openings against the zone.”
For the game, the Tornadoes were 24-of-55 (43.6 percent) from the field, including 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, Meigs shot 26-of-68 (38.2 percent) from the field, including 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
“They came out guns blazing, but we’ve been there, done that and come back from that before,” fourth-year Marauders head coach Ed Fry said. “We made a ton of mental errors, especially defensively. They should have never gotten the open shots that they were getting. We weren’t ready to play, but you have to give them a lot of credit, they came out guns blazing. They’ll gauge their season by how they played against Meigs in the opener.”
The Maroon and Gold were 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) from the free throw line, while the Purple and Gold were 16-of-30 (53.3 percent) from the stripe, after missing their final seven tries.
After being outrebounded by three in the first half, the Tornadoes wound up winning the rebounding battle by a 35-33 count for the game. However, Meigs earned a 14-to-10 advantage in offensive rebounds.
“The one thing that I told them at halftime was, ‘we have to play a little more scrappy and get after some of those rebounds’,” Caldwell said. “It’s the first game, so we have a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive end. For a young team, I thought they played with a lot of poise tonight, so I’m really proud of them.”
Meigs also won the turnover battle by a 18-to-12 clip, forcing seven over the final eight minutes. The Marauders earned a 9-6 edge in steals and rejected three shots. The Tornadoes finished with 20 assists as a team, while the hosts combined for 17.
“The type of defense you play doesn’t matter, it’s how you play it,” Fry said. “We threw the kitchen sink at them and we didn’t execute anything very well defensively. When we’d play good defense, we’d give up one or two offensive rebounds and there’s no reason for that.”
Southern was led by junior Weston Thorla, who posted team-highs of 19 points, seven assists and four steals. Jensen Anderson finished with 15 points for the guests, Brayden Cunningham and Dylan Smith both recorded 10 points, while Coltin Parker added nine.
SHS junior Austin Baker contributed seven points and a team-high eight rebounds to the winning cause, Austin Vancooney chipped in with four points, while Trey McNickle came up with two points and seven rebounds.
“I think anytime you go on the road to win a game, especially against a good Meigs team, it’s gotta help your confidence,” Caldwell said. “We have to understand that it is Game 1, we’ll just have to keep building from here. We have a couple guys a little banged up, so it’s a good thing we don’t play again until Friday.”
The Marauders were led by senior Christian Mattox, who had team-bests of 31 points and four steals in the contest. Weston Baer scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for the hosts, Cooper Darst recorded 10 points, while Zach Bartrum was responsible for six points and team-highs of eight rebounds and nine assists.
MHS junior Nick Lilly had three points for the Maroon and Gold, while Bobby Musser had two points, six rebounds and a game-best two rejections.
“I think back to this time last year when we were hard-pressed to score 40 points,” Fry said. “We have to get an inside game, we have a couple of first-time varsity players in there and I don’t think the guys have a lot of confidence yet. They have to do something when they get the ball and we just have to rebound.”
This is the lone meeting between these Meigs County foes this season. Southern begins Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play next, as South Gallia visits Racine on Friday. Meigs will continue non-league play on Tuesday at Gallia Academy.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.