ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — On the wrong end of a great comeback.
The second-seeded Southern boys basketball team had its 15-point, second half lead vanish in the Division IV sectional final on Wednesday at Meigs High School, with seventh-seeded South Webster hitting a three-pointer with three seconds left to cap off the 46-44 comeback victory.
The Tornadoes (14-8) scored the first seven points of the night and held a 12-6 edge at the end of the opening quarter. Southern led by as many as 11 points in the second period, but South Webster (9-15) trimmed the margin back to six, at 27-21, by halftime.
SHS scored the first nine points of the second half and led 36-21 with 5:00 left in the third. South Webster ended the period with a 7-to-4 stretch, however, cutting the Tornado lead to 40-28.
Beginning with an alley-oop dunk from Devyn Coriell to Shiloah Blevins and ending with an Andrew Smith three-pointer, the Jeeps started the fourth with a 13-0 run that gave them a 41-40 lead.
The Tornadoes tied the game at 41 with an Austin Baker free throw at the 3:22 mark, and SHS tied it again at 43 with a pair of Dylan Smith free throws with 2:20 to play. After over two minutes, Dylan Smith hit a free throw to break the tie and give the Purple and Gold a 44-43 lead with 13 seconds to play.
However, with 3.6 seconds left, Coriell hit a three-pointer from the corner on an assist from Andrew Smith, giving the Jeeps a 46-44 advantage. The Tornadoes’ three-point try at the buzzer fell short and the Jeeps claimed the 46-44 win.
“It’s a shame, because we really played so well for three quarters,” SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell said. “I thought our kids gave great effort, they just had some kids hit some big shots in the fourth quarter. I will live with making someone other than Shiloah Belvins get a shot to beat us at the end.”
The Jeeps outrebounded Southern by a 30-to-18 clip, including 11-to-7 on the offensive end. Both teams rejected four shots with the Purple and Gold claiming advantages of 9-to-8 in assists and 8-to-4 in steals. SWHS turned the ball over 10 times, once more than the Tornadoes.
Southern shot 14-of-38 (36.8 percent) from the field, including 5-of-15 (33.3 percent) from three-point range, while South Webster shot 18-of-47 (38.3 percent) from the field, including 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) from deep. At the free throw line, SHS was 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) and SWHS was 4-of-6 (66.7 percent).
“They made the run at us in little passes, they kept hitting big shots,” Caldwell said. “We’re probably going to wish we had that fourth quarter back. That’s life, these guys will have to move on from it. I’m so proud of them and the effort they’ve given throughout the year, bringing a lot of pride to Southern basketball.”
SHS junior Weston Thorla led the Purple and Gold with 14 points, including six from beyond the arc. Dylan Smith also hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with 13 points, to go with four rebounds and four steals.
Baker scored 11 points and pulled in a game-high nine rebounds for the Tornadoes, Brayden Cunningham recorded four points and two rejections, while Trey McNickle had two points and a game-best five assists.
Belvins led the Jeeps with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Braden Bockway had 10 points and six boards for the victors, Andrew Smith scored six points and grabbed three steals, with both players making a pair of three-pointers.
Coriell marked five points and three assists for the Jeeps, Sam Holstein added three points, while Jacob Ruth and Jacob Witter scored two apiece.
South Webster advances to Sunday’s Division IV district semifinal at Ohio University where they will face third-seeded New Boston.
This marks the final game in the Purple and Gold for SHS seniors Dylan Smith and Larry Dunn.
“This has been a very enjoyable group to coach,” Caldwell said. “It’s been a great season, I know it’s hard for them to notice right now, but they did great job throughout the year. I appreciate Larry’s effort every night in practice. I’ve had the privilege to coach Dylan for four years and I’ve loved coaching him. I feel for him because he played a great ball game tonight. That’s a tough way for him to go out, but he can always look back and say ‘I gave it all I had’.”
The Jeeps have now won back-to-back postseason meetings with the Tornadoes, as SWHS also won the in the 2014 sectional final over the Purple and Gold. Southern last defeated South Webster in the postseason in the 2010 district semifinal.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.