ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — The Rebels only led for a second, but it was the right one.
The South Gallia boys basketball team took a 57-55 lead on a two-pointer from senior Curtis Haner with one second left in Wednesday’s Division IV sectional semifinal at Meigs High School. Eighth-seeded Eastern missed it chance to tie the game and the ninth-seeded Rebels claimed the two-point win and the spot in the sectional final on Tuesday.
Eastern (9-13) jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but the Rebels (7-15) bounced back to tie the game at six. The Eagles finished the first quarter with a 7-to-4 run and a 13-10 advantage.
EHS had its lead trimmed to one point within the opening 1:45 of the second quarter, but stretched its advantage to as high as eight, before settling for a 31-24 halftime lead.
After seven points for each side in the opening four minutes of the second half, Eastern rattled off nine straight points and led by 15 with 43 seconds left in the third. South Gallia scored the final point of the period, making the margin 46-32 with eight minutes to play.
The Eagle lead was back to 15 within the opening minute of the finale, but the Rebels battled all the way back to tie the game at 55 on a three-pointer by Haner with 1:11 to go. Following a turnover by each side, the Haner drove left on an isolation play and hit the go-ahead bucket with one second left on the clock.
After a timeout, the Eagles got a two-point shot off in the final second, but it fell short and South Gallia escaped with the 57-55 win.
“We pressed them, we caused them a lot of havoc and they took a few shots sooner than they shot have,” SGHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “Once they saw a couple of turnovers, then they started to believe in it, they thought they could actually get it. Then we hit some key shots and our defense was really strong.
“It was gutty for us, we played with a lot of heart, those are things that happen in the tournament. We finally got some momentum, we shot the ball better and we kept shooting it better. Eastern is a very improved ball club, (Colton) Reynolds has really stepped his game up, he was problem in the first half.”
For the game, South Gallia shot 20-of-50 (40 percent) from the field, including 9-of-22 (40.1 percent) from beyond the arc. Half of the Rebels 20 successful field goals came in the final period. Eastern was 23-of-47 (48.9 percent) from the field, including 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) from three-point range.
At the free throw line, SGHS shot 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) and EHS shot 6-of-8 (75 percent).
Eastern outrebounded the Rebels by a 33-to-15 count, including 9-to-4 on the offensive end. EHS had an 18-to-11 advantage in assists and claimed all-4 of the game’s rejections, but the Eagles committed 23 turnovers, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. South Gallia turned the ball over 12 times in the game and picked up an 18-to-8 steals advantage.
“For 3.5 quarters we played very nice basketball and we had our way with South Gallia in those 3.5 quarters,” EHS head coach Jeremy Hill said. “We did the things that we wanted to do, and then South Gallia stepped its game, started pressing us a little bit and we went a little bit bonkers. They made shots and we turned the ball over 11 times in one quarter.
“Congratulations to Kent Wolfe, obviously that team has grown so much from where they were in the beginning of the season. I wish them all the luck against Trimble come next week.”
Haner made a game-high five three-pointers, pulled in a team-best five rebounds and led all scorers with 25 points, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter. Braxton Hardy had 17 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Rebels, while Austin Stapleton chipped in with eight points.
Eli Ellis marked four points and four assists for the victors, while Jared Burdette finished with three points. Ellis and Haner led the SGHS defense with six and five steals respectively.
Isaiah Fish led the Eagle offense with 16 points and four assists, followed by Colton Reynolds with 15 points, nine of which came from beyond the arc. Garrett Barringer had 10 points in the setback, Kaleb Hill added six points and nine rebounds, while Blaise Facemyer finished with four points.
Mason Dishong and Ryan Dill rounded out the EHS scoring with two points apiece, with Dishong grabbing nine boards. Fish, Reynolds and Dishong each had two steals for the Eastern defense, while Hill and Barringer both blocked two shots.
The Rebels will now be tasked with top-seeded Trimble in Tuesday’s sectional final at Meigs High School.
“I have four goals,” Wolfe said. “I wanted to beat a top-3 team in our league, we did with Southern. Then I wanted to win twice as many games as we won last year, we won three last year and when we won over Wahama we got our sixth one. No. 3 was to win a tournament game, and of course everybody in Southeast Ohio basketball’s No. 4 is to play at The Convo.
“That’s where we are now, but that’s going to be a difficult chore. We are not going to be able to press Trimble like we pressed Eastern. We have to stop their transition. We stayed close with them at our place and then they just blew us out, they said this is our home and blew us out of the gym. We have to keep chugging along and anything can happen in a sectional final.”
South Gallia has one more game to worry about before its sectional title tilt, as the Rebels travel to Miller on Friday for a rescheduled regular season game.
The tournament loss means the end of the postseason run for Eastern and its seniors.
“We have two seniors,” Coach Hill said. “Brayden Holter, who hasn’t been able to play because of his injury, has been a staple to this ball club. He does a lot of things getting this team ready, being there for us with stats and just anything we want him to do. He’s very much a part of the team, even though he didn’t get to play.
“Kaleb Hill has had a nice season, that kid can play when he wants to. He’s gonna be missed, he’s a big post man that we’re going to have to find a replacement for next year. He did a nice job, he had a good senior year considering he really only has two years of basketball under his belt.”
The Eagles have a chance to end the season on a high note, as they host Belpre on Friday night in a regular season makeup game.
“We’re going to move on, prepare for Belpre and prepare for the future,” said Coach Hill. “As we move forward, we need to put in some time in the offseason to make ourselves better. If they do that, they’re going to be a very nice ball club next year. We have a lot of experience, they have a lot of athletic ability, and once we just learn the game a little bit better, they’re going to pull out a lot of wins. We got nine wins this year, I wished we would have got 10 here tonight, but we didn’t.”
This decision also gave SGHS the season series over the Eagles, as Eastern defeated the Rebels by a 64-43 final on Dec. 19 at ‘The Nest’, but then South Gallia claimed a 57-36 victory over EHS on Jan. 30 in Mercerville.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.