ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — The Rebel run came a little too late.
The South Gallia boys basketball team made 10 of their final 16 field goal attempts, including six of their final eight three-point tries, in Wednesday’s Division IV sectional final at Meigs High School’s Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, but it wasn’t enough, as the seventh-seeded Rebels fell to second-seeded Trimble by a 58-55 tally.
South Gallia (14-10) charged out to a 5-1 lead after field goals by Nick Hicks and Kyle Northup, but Trimble (18-3) took the advantage with an 8-to-2 run and never trailed again.
A field goal by SGHS senior Braxton Hardy tied the game at nine with 2:45 left in the first quarter, but the Tomcats claimed the final seven points of the period and led 16-9 headed into the second.
The first 2:40 of the second quarter was scoreless, but the Tomcat lead was stretched to double digits with three free throws following a technical foul against SGHS. The Rebels responded with a 7-to-2 spurt, but surrendered five of the last seven points in the half and trailed 26-19 at the break.
South Gallia came out of the half with a 6-to-2 run, trimming the Tomcat lead to three points, at 28-25, with 4:50 left in the third. THS gained some breathing room with a 9-to-4 spurt, but Hicks drained a three-point at the end of the stanza, cutting the margin to 37-32 with eight minutes remaining.
An Eli Ellis two-pointer made it a three-point Tomcat lead 1:20 into the finale, but Trimble reeled off seven straight points and led 44-34 with four minutes to play.
South Gallia made eight field goals, including five triples over the final four minutes, but were never closer than three. Trimble only made one field goal in that span, but hit 12-of-15 free throws to seal the 58-55 win.
Following the hard-fought setback, SGHS head coach Kent Wolfe discussed the matchup with Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division champion Tomcats, who also defeated the Rebels by single digits twice in the regular season.
“We gave Trimble three good games,” Wolfe said. “In the first half we let them get some offensive rebounds and put backs that hurt us, and their three-point shooting is outstanding. I thought our defense in the second half was really, really good, but we let them have some dribble drives. We thought if we could hang with them in rebounding, we could hang with them in the game.
“We made some great shots there at the end, but that’s who our team is, we’re fighters. We’re not that physical, but we scrap. Trimble is 18-3 and league champion for a reason, they win a lot of games like that, and they do it with clutch free throw shooting.”
For the game, South Gallia was 21-of-42 (50 percent) from the field, including 9-of-20 (45 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, Trimble was 17-of-35 (48.6 percent) from the field, including 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from deep.
At the free throw line, SGHS was 4-of-8, with all-4 misses coming in the final minute of regulation. The Tomcats, on the other hand, made 18-of-25 (72 percent) foul shots in the win.
The Rebels won the rebounding battle by a 22-to-18 clip, including 9-to-6 on the offensive end, but SGHS committed a dozen turnovers, two more than THS. South Gallia finished with 10 assists and three steals, while Trimble earned 11 assists and seven steals.
Hardy led the Rebels with 23 points — nine of which came from beyond the arc — to go with team-highs of five rebounds and four assists. Hicks connected on a game-best five three-pointers and finished with 19 points, Garrett Saunders made one triple and finished with five points, while Eli Ellis came up with four markers. C.J. Mayse and Kyle Northup rounded out the SGHS total with two points apiece.
Leading the Rebel defense, Northup, Hicks and Saunders had a steal apiece. Hicks and Mayse each corralled four rebounds in the contest.
Brayden Weber and Jeremiah Brown led Trimble with 17 and 16 points respectively, with Weber earning a game-high five assists. Blake Guffey scored 13 points and grabbed a game-best six rebounds for the Tomcats, Cameron Kittle added eight points, while Sawyer Koons scored four.
Weber, Guffey and Kittle grabbed two steals apiece to lead the Tomcat defense.
Trimble’s regular season wins against the Rebels were a 61-60 decision in Mercerville on Dec. 21, and a 49-42 victory in Glouster on Jan. 25.
With the loss comes the end of the prep careers for SGHS seniors Braxton Hardy, Nick Hicks, Garrett Saunders, Eli Ellis, Gavin Bevan, Bryceton Folden and C.J. Mayse. Coach Wolfe praised his seniors’ hard work, and hopes than the younger kids will follow in their footsteps.
“It hurts because you have seven seniors that just worked hard all year long,” Wolfe said. “When it’s your last one, and you have kids work hard in practice, we always had intensity, and I just wanted these kids to have a chance to go to the Convo. These are the kind of kids that deserve it, we were just a couple baskets short. Two years ago they were right here, they got done playing Belpre and they were 3-19. To think, two years to this day, they leave their careers with 14 wins, they have to be proud of that.
“We have some youngsters coming and it’s going to take an awful lot of weight lifting. We have to get stronger, we have to get in the gym and start working. Austin Day, Kyle Northup and Jared Burdette have to be the ones to show the leadership to the ones coming up.”
The Rebels will look to snap a three-year sectional title drought and claim the program’s seventh title next year.
The Tomcats head into the district with a seven-game winning streak and will face third-seeded Peebles on Sunday at Ohio University.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.