PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Just a bit too late.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball team overcame a 19-point halftime deficit and tied things up with less than 15 seconds remaining, but an Elijahjuan Burke basket with four seconds left ultimately allowed visiting Africentric to claim a thrilling 63-61 decision on Saturday at the 2018 Buckeye Elite National Showcase being held at Portsmouth High School in Scioto County.
The host Blue Devils (2-1) built early leads of 4-0, 9-4 and 13-6 in the opening frame, but the Nubians (1-1) answered with a trio of trifectas during an 11-4 surge that knotted the game up at 17-all through eight minutes of play.
Africentric did a considerable amount of its damage in the second canto as the Purple and White drained another five trifectas as part of a 24-5 charge that gave the guests a commanding 41-22 intermission edge — the largest lead of the game.
GAHS, however, responded by going inside to big-man Zach Loveday, who provided eight points during a 17-8 run that allowed the Blue and White to close to within 49-39.
After a 9-6 run pulled the deficit to 55-48, the hosts followed with six consecutive points to close to within 55-54.
Loveday — who had 18 fourth quarter points — capped a small 7-6 spurt that tied the game at 61 following an old-fashioned 3-point play late in regulation.
Out of a timeout, Africentric dribbled the length of floor and made a pass to Burke on the right wing. Burke worked his way around a defender and ended up getting to the basket via the baseline.
Burke made a quick ball fake before going up with the eventual game-winning basket, forcing GAHS to take a timeout.
Out of the break, the ball made its way to midcourt and into the hands of Loveday — who hit a streaking Cory Call in stride.
Call released a 35-footer from the left wing area just before the buzzer, but the shot bounced just short and wide right of the basket — allowing the Nubians to hold on for their initial win of the season.
The Blue Devils — who won the second half by a sizable 39-22 margin — finished the night with 17 turnovers, six more than the guests.
Gallia Academy connected on 21-of-33 shot attempts for 63 percent, including a 2-of-7 effort from 3-point range for 29 percent.
Loveday led the hosts with a game-high 35 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Call with 13 points — seven of which came during the third stanza.
Justin McClelland was next with seven points, while Logan Blouir and Caleb Henry respectively rounded things out with five points and one point.
GAHS was 17-of-23 at the free throw line for 74 percent. Loveday and Call each had two blocks, while Call had two steals and Blouir added two assists.
Africentric went 21-of-47 from the floor for 45 percent, including a 9-of-17 effort from behind the arc for 53 percent. The guests were also 12-of-16 at the charity stripe for 75 percent.
Anthony Bowman paced the Nubians with 28 points, with all but four of those coming in the first half. Bowman also went scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Burke — who scored all 14 of Africentric’s fourth quarter points — was next with 17 markers, all of which came in the second half.
Calijha’won Davis and Hervon Jacobs were next with eight markers apiece, while Dorian Holloway completed the winning tally with two points.
The Blue Devils make their home debut on Tuesday when they host Rock Hill in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both programs. Tip-off is scheduled for approximately 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.