CENTENARY, Ohio — Glad to be surrounded by blue.
After a one-month absence, the Gallia Academy boys basketball team made a triumphant return home on Saturday night with a wire-to-wire 67-39 victory over visiting Point Pleasant in a non-conference matchup of Ohio River rivals in Gallia County.
The Blue Devils (5-3) — playing in only their second home contest of the year, and first since hosting Rock Hill on Dec. 4, 2018 — found some comfort in the friendly confines of home as the Blue and White stormed out to a 15-0 lead and ultimately never looked back.
The Big Blacks (1-6) had seven turnovers and just as many missed shot attempts on their first 14 offensive possessions, but Hunter Bush managed to bank in a trifecta just before the first quarter buzzer — allowing GAHS to secure a 15-3 edge through eight minutes of play.
Bush opened the second frame with a field goal 26 seconds as the Red and Black pulled to within 10 points, but the guests were never closer as the Blue Devils reeled off a 12-7 spurt over the next five minutes for a 27-12 cushion.
Gallia Academy followed with another 15-0 run to close out the final 2:09 of the first half while building a 42-12 advantage.
PPHS managed to outscore the hosts by a slim 27-25 margin after the break, but the Big Blacks were ultimately never closer than 22 points as Braxton Yates cut the deficit down to 45-23 with a bucket at the 4:50 mark of the third.
The Blue Devils closed the period with a 9-0 run that extended their advantage out to 54-23 headed into the finale. It was also the largest lead of the entire game.
A pair of successful free throws from Yates saw the guests whittle the deficit down to 61-37 at the 3:23 mark, but Gallia Academy answered with a 6-2 run over the final three-plus minutes to wrap up the 28-point triumph.
The Blue and White — who match a season-high with their second straight victory — shot 50 percent from the field and also forced 16 Point Pleasant turnovers while claiming a 19-6 edge on the glass … all in the first half.
The Blue Devils also had 10 players reach the scoring column and shot 46 percent for the game while remaining unbeaten at home.
Though it was far from a perfect night, GAHS coach Gary Harrison acknowledged that his troops were really glad to be home after a month away. With six of their next eight games also scheduled at home, Harrison also felt that this was the start of something better for his road-weary squad.
“Honestly, we’re just glad to be home. It’s only our second home game and I was very pleased with the effort, especially following a tough one at Coal Grove last night. We really bounced back with a great effort,” Harrison said. “The other good thing about tonight is that we are finally going to get back into a rhythm of playing games. This was our third game in four weeks, so now we can try to get back in a flow as we start playing some of our home schedule.”
The Big Blacks, on the other hand, have played six straight road contests and were also returning from a two-day tournament in Savannah, Ga. Point also suffered its third straight setback in its closest thing to a home game since actually opening the season at home on Dec. 11, 2018, against River Valley.
Afterwards, PPHS coach Josh Williams mentioned that Gallia Academy had a lot to do with his team’s early struggles, but he was also very proud of the fight that his troops displayed after falling into that big hole.
“They got us in that early hole with their pressure and we just struggled to get our offense going. They took us out of everything offensively in that first quarter and we just never could catch up from there,” Williams said. “We know we have a gritty bunch that has flaws, but I was impressed with that way that the kids responded in the second half. They continued to battle and never gave up, and they put a lot of effort in trying to get back in the game. I’m really proud of the kids for the amount of heart they showed in that second half.”
Gallia Academy outrebounded the guests by a 35-22 overall margin, including a 13-4 edge on the offensive glass. Point Pleasant also committed 28 turnovers, while the Blue Devils ended the night with 19 miscues — a dozen of which came after the break.
The Blue Devils netted 23-of-50 field goal attempts overall, including a 5-of-12 effort from behind the arc for 42 percent. The hosts were also 16-of-29 at the free throw line for 55 percent.
Zach Loveday led GAHS with a double-double effort of 15 points and 11 rebounds in three quarters of action, followed by Justin McClelland and Logan Blouir with 11 markers apiece. Cory Call also had 10 points for the victors.
Ben Cox was next with six points and Bailey Walker added five markers, while Blaine Carter contributed three points. Cole Davis, Caleb Henry and Damon Cremeens completed the winning tally with two points apiece.
Call followed Loveday with six rebounds and Blouir hauled in four caroms. Loveday also had three blocks for the hosts.
The Big Blacks made 12-of-37 shot attempts for 32 percent, including a 5-of-15 effort from 3-point range for 33 percent. The guests were also 10-of-13 at the charity stripe for 77 percent.
Bush paced Point Pleasant with 15 points and seven rebounds, followed by Yates with nine points. Aiden Sang and Evan Cobb were next with six markers each, while Jovone Johnson completed the scoring with three points. Sang and Johnson also followed Bush with three boards apiece.
Gallia Academy returns to action Tuesday when it hosts South Point in an Ohio Valley Conference contest at 6 p.m.
Point Pleasant returns home on Friday to host Hannan in a battle of Mason County programs at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.