BIDWELL, Ohio — They say the difference can be night and day.
The difference on Tuesday night was Zach Loveday.
The 7-foot Gallia Academy sophomore poured in 29 points, collected 15 rebounds and had six blocked shots during a wire-to-wire 64-37 victory over the River Valley boys basketball in a non-conference contest between Gallia County programs.
Loveday accounted for at least six points in each quarter and had four emphatic dunks over the course of the game, which helped the Blue Devils (17-3) gradually add to their cushion during the 32-minute grind.
The host Raiders (5-16) — who celebrated Senior Night festivities before the game — were slow out of the gates as the Blue and White made their first five shot attempts while building an 11-0 edge less than four minutes into play.
The Silver and Black, however, showed patience in their execution while stringing together a 14-4 surge over the next five minutes, cutting the deficit down to a single point at 15-14 just 36 seconds into the second period.
Gallia Academy responded with a 12-3 charge before taking an eight-point lead into halftime, then used a 15-9 run in the third stanza to pull out to a 42-28 advantage.
The Raiders were never closer than 11 points the rest of the way and the guests led by as much as 29 points (64-35) with 22 seconds left in regulation.
The Blue Devils led by at least three possessions over the final 19 minutes of the game and dominated the boards by a 44-22 overall margin, including a 14-5 edge on the offensive glass. Both teams also committed 10 turnovers apiece.
Gallia Academy also claimed a season sweep of River Valley after posting a 68-28 decision in Centenary back on Dec. 22, 2017. The Blue Devils have now won four straight in the head-to-head series as well.
The Blue Devils shot 48 percent from the field and had nine players reach the scoring column, but it was a 37-18 second half charge that ultimately allowed the guests to surpass last year’s win total.
Afterwards, GAHS coach Gary Harrison noted that River Valley put up a very courageous effort … but he also pointed out that his troops can wear opponents down when they stick to what works.
“The thing about these rivalry games is that sometimes kids try to do some stuff they haven’t done all year. Early on, I thought we were a little too caught up in going one-on-one and we didn’t play our team basketball,” Harrison said. “Once we started to settle down and get the ball inside to Zach, everything else just kind of opened up from there.
“We did a good job of wearing them down in the second half, and there really isn’t anyone in southeast Ohio that can stop Zach outside of Zach. Hat’s off to River Valley, though, for the battle they gave us tonight.”
River Valley never made more than four field goals in any one quarter and finished the night just 26 percent from the field, yet found themselves facing a single-digit deficit (35-26) with 3:06 left in the third canto.
Loveday and Logan Blouir combined on a 7-2 run to close out the period, which gave the guests a 14-point edge. GAHS hit five of its first six shot attempts as part of a 22-9 fourth quarter run.
After the game, RVHS coach Bryan Drummond was disappointed in the final outcome … but that was about the only flaw he could find.
“We missed a few shots that we could have made and I still think we haven’t play our best game yet, but I cannot fault our kids and their effort tonight,” Drummond said. “Honestly, this was probably the best effort that this team has given all year long.
“Hopefully we can keep that effort up in practice as we get ready for the Meigs game on Friday night.”
Evan Wiseman scored seven points during that early 11-0 run, but the Silver and Black countered with a 10-2 run over the final 3:57 to pull within a possession at 13-10.
Loveday’s first dunk of the night, off an alley-oop lob from Caleb Henry, came with controversy five seconds into the second frame as the sophomore was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Jarret McCarley made one of the subsequent free throws, then Layne Fitch buried a trifecta at the 7:24 mark while closing the deficit down to 15-14. The Blue Devils made a 12-3 run over the next six-plus minutes and eventually entered the break up 27-19.
Gallia Academy made 26-of-54 field goal attempts overall, including a 5-of-15 effort from three-point range for 33 percent. The guests were also 7-of-13 at the free throw line for 54 percent.
Blouir followed Loveday with nine points, while Wiseman and Cory Call each contributed seven markers. Cole Davis, Justin McClelland and Gage Harrison were next with three points apiece, with Henry and Kaden Thomas rounding things out with respective efforts of two points and one point.
Call grabbed 10 rebounds and McClelland also hauled in five caroms for the victors.
River Valley netted 13-of-50 total shot attempts, including a 4-of-16 effort from three-point range for 25 percent. The hosts were also 7-of-12 at the charity stripe for 58 percent.
McCarley led the Silver and Black with 11 points and Fitch added 10 points, while Dustin Barber and Patrick Brown each chipped in five markers. Jordan Lambert was next with four points, with Kyle Coen completing things with two points.
Fitch, Brown and Matthew Mollohan grabbed five rebounds apiece in the setback.
RVHS honored seniors Dustin Barber, Patrick Brown, Kyle Coen and Jarret McCarley before the game for their collective efforts to the program over the years.
Gallia Academy returns to action Friday when it hosts Chesapeake in an OVC matchup at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils complete the regular season on Saturday when they welcome Point Pleasant for Senior Night festivities at 7 p.m.
River Valley will complete its TVC Ohio and regular season schedule on Friday when it travels to Meigs for a 7 p.m. contest.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.