RACINE, Ohio — The Tornadoes are kings of Meigs County.
The Southern boys basketball team improved to 3-0 against in-county opponents this season, as they defeated Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest Eastern by a 54-44 final tally on Friday night.
The Tornadoes (13-5, 10-3 TVC Hocking) — who’ve now won seven straight games — never trailed in the opening quarter, leading by as many as six points before the Eagles (7-11, 3-10) cut the margin back to three, at 10-7, by the end of the stanza.
Southern outscored its guest by a 6-to-5 clip in the opening three minutes of the second quarter, but Eastern scored six straight points and led for the first and only time in the game, at 17-16, with 1:39 left in the first half. However, SHS ended the half with 7-to-2 run and a 23-19 advantage.
SHS scored the first four points of the second half, but had its lead trimmed back to four points, at 31-27, with 3:20 left in the third period. However, sparked by a technical foul against EHS head coach Jeremy Hill, Southern scored six unanswered points to end the third with a 37-27 lead.
The Tornado advantage grew as high as 12 and never sank below eight in the fourth quarter, as Southern sealed the 54-44 victory.
“It was an intense game, I thought both teams were playing really hard defensively and going after rebounds,” said Southern head coach Jeff Caldwell. “We knew Eastern would come in here and give us all we wanted and more, and they did that, credit to them. I’m proud of our kids for hanging in there.”
Both teams grabbed 18 defensive rebounds, with the Eagles picking up a 9-to-3 advantage in offensive boards. EHS and SHS both committed 22 turnovers, with the guests holding a 15-to-12 edge in steals. The Tornadoes claimed advantages of 13-to-11 in assists and 5-to-3 in blocked shots.
“Hats’ off to Southern, Coach Caldwell had them well-prepared,” Coach Hill said. “I think they knew us better than we knew ourselves. Our kids played real hard and if their coach would have preformed like they did, it might have been a different outcome.
“Ultimately, in a game like tonight, we ask our kids to always keep their composure. Their coach lost his composure and probably cost them a basketball game. I know it changed the reflection of it a little bit. We always ask the kids to hold each other and hold themselves accountable, and now they’re going to have to hold their coach accountable. I should not have done that.”
Both teams made 18 field goals in the contest, Southern in 37 tries for 48.6 percent, and Eastern in 50 tries for 36 percent. Both teams tried nine three-pointers, with SHS making one for 11.1 percent and EHS making two for 22.2 percent.
The biggest discrepancy in the game came at the foul line, where the Tornadoes were 17-of-26 (65.4 percent) and the Eagles were 6-of-11 (54.5 percent).
“The main thing is, we’re doing a good job of understanding situations,” Coach Caldwell said. “I thought we forced things at times in the first half and we did it a little in the second half, but overall we’re understanding that we can work our offense and be patient when we need to be.
“Tonight, I thought that both teams played a really good game defensively. They’re kind of like us with only one senior starter. Both teams are gaining valuable experience getting ready to go into tournaments, playing in a good atmosphere like this and a tough game.”
All-7 Tornadoes that played scored in the game, with four marking in double figures. Austin Baker and Trey McNickle led the way with 12 points apiece, with McNickle dishing out a game-best seven assists. Brayden Cunningham hit the hosts’s only three-pointer and finished with 11 points, while Dylan Smith had 10 points to go with a team-best six rebounds.
Weston Thorla contributed five points to the winning cause, while Coltin Parker and Jensen Anderson scored two apiece. McNickle and Cunningham led the SHS defense with five steals and four blocks respectively.
Six Eagles scored in the contest, led by Isaiah Fish and Garrett Barringer with 15 points apiece. Barringer pulled in a game-best 12 rebounds and led the EHS defense with six steals and two rejections, while Fish connected on one three-pointer.
Colton Reynolds scored five points and recorded a team-best six assists for the Eagles, while Kaleb Hill finished with four points. Blaise Facemyer marked three points on a trifecta, while Sharp Facemyer rounded out the team total with two points.
“From here on out they’re all big games,” Coach Hill said. “We’re going to try and get our eighth win tomorrow night when we go down to Meigs. Meigs has a very nice ball club, right now they’re playing good basketball and we’re going to do our best to get another win.”
After the Eagles visit Meigs on Saturday, they’ll get back to work in the TVC Hocking at Federal Hocking on Tuesday.
After hosting Belpre on Saturday, Southern will have an immediate rematch with the Golden Eagles on Tuesday in Washington County.
The Tornadoes also won their first meeting with the Eagles, taking a 60-54 decision on Jan. 5 in Tuppers Plains.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.