MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Score one for the little guys.
The South Gallia boys basketball team overcame a trio of 11-point deficits with a 34-21 surge over the final 12:01 of play Tuesday night en route to a 60-59 overtime victory over visiting Gallia Academy in a non-conference matchup between Gallia County programs.
The Rebels (6-2) avenged last year’s 45-34 setback in their first-ever contest with the Blue Devils (2-4) as the hosts used a friendly little roll to start what turned out to be one amazing comeback. Trailing 37-26 late in the third canto, SGHS senior Joseph Ehman launched a trifecta from the wing as the buzzer sounded.
The shot attempt bounced straight up and came right down through the basket, which ultimately provided a spark after whittling the lead down to 37-29 headed into the finale.
The Red and Gold used that momentum to their advantage after going on a 20-12 run in the final eight minutes of regulation, resulting in a 49-all tie as both teams headed into overtime.
Each squad led three times during the extra four minutes of play, which eventually led to the only tie of the extra session at 59-all with 9.9 seconds left.
With SGHS owning possession and needing to go the length of the floor, one of the Gallia Academy players — apparently thinking his team was behind — purposely fouled Landon Hutchinson shortly after the ball was inbounded.
Hutchinson netted the first of his two free throws for a 60-59 cushion with only two seconds left, but his second attempt went off to the right and into the hands of Gallia Academy’s Kole Carter. Carter heaved the rebound towards the basket, but the game-winning attempt ultimately came up short — allowing SGHS to rally back for the epic one-point decision.
The game was spirited and physical, yet both teams posted very similar numbers throughout the course of the night. In the end, however, it was the Rebels’ late push and never-say-die attitude that eventually allowed them to pick up the triumph.
For fourth-year South Gallia coach Larry Howell, it was special evening for a handful of reasons. He was most pleased to see how his kids responded to the late adversity, but it was also nice for Howell in earning the program’s first-ever win over his significantly-larger alma mater.
“I’m kind of speechless right now, but I am really happy for the kids,” Howell said. “There are a handful of kids in this program that started in Gallipolis when they were younger, and I’m a graduate of Gallia Academy. Truth be told, it’s a special win for all of us to beat the Big Blue this first time.
“We talked to the kids beforehand about this not being a rivalry until we proved that we could not only play with the big boys, but also compete with them. It sure felt like it became a rivalry tonight, and I think it speaks volumes about our kids that they could overcome so much and get this victory.”
For third-year GAHS frontman Gary Harrison, conversely, it was a tough way to watch a two-game winning streak come to an end. However, as he noted, it most certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“We knew it was going to be a battle … and it was. Larry’s done a good job of developing the program down here and we knew it going to be a dog fight until the very end,” Harrison said. “We were able to get out to a good lead, but they got hot at the end and it kind of broke our backs a little bit. They made the shots when they needed to make them and that was really the difference.
“Our kids played hard and played well a majority of the night. We had several chances at the end of regulation to win it and we missed them. Unfortunately, that’s just part of the game and how it goes sometimes.”
Both teams held leads in the opening two minutes of regulation before ultimately ending up tied at 10 through eight minutes of play, but the guests reeled off six consecutive points to start the second canto for a two-possession lead at the 6:31 mark.
SGHS responded with a 6-0 run of its own to knot things up at 16, then both teams traded baskets to end up tied again at 18-all with 4:13 left until halftime. The Blue and White, however, held the Rebels scoreless for almost four minutes while making another 6-0 run for a 24-18 edge at the 2:22 mark.
Darrin Drenner end a 3:57 scoreless drought with a pair of free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining, making it a 24-20 contest headed into the break.
South Gallia again went scoreless for over four minutes to start the second half, with the Blue Devils going on a 7-0 run to secure its first 11-point cushion of the night at 31-20 with 4:13 left in the third period. The Rebels closed the lead down to 31-25 with 1:59 left in the canto, but GAHS closed the quarter on a 6-4 spurt to take a 37-29 edge into the finale.
Gallia Academy took its final 11-point lead (42-31) following a bucket by Miles Cornwell at the the 6:03 mark of the fourth, but SGHS retaliated with a 17-5 run to claim its first lead of the second half at 48-47 with 1:02 left in regulation.
Wes Jarrell followed with two free throws with 37.8 seconds left to reclaim a 49-48 edge for the guests, then Kane Hutchinson netted 1-of-2 free throws with 24.6 seconds left to end regulation tied at 49-all. GAHS did manage several close shot attempts and offensive rebounds before the buzzer, but none of the shots managed to go into the hole.
South Gallia’s biggest lead of the night came at 56-51 following a pair of free throws by Kane Hutchinson at the 2:23 mark of OT, but the Blue Devils answered with an 8-2 surge over the next 1:55 for a 59-58 lead with 28 seconds left.
Jarrell picked up his fifth foul with 9.9 seconds remaining, and Landon Hutchinson sank the first of two free throws to knot things up at 59-all.
On Gallia Academy’s ensuing possession, the guests were eventually whistled for player-control foul — which allowed South Gallia to retain possession with under five seconds left. The ensuing inbounds pass went to Landon Hutchinson, who was immediately fouled — which sent the senior to the foul line for his eventual game-winning charity toss.
Both teams hauled in 31 rebounds in the contest, with GAHS claiming a slim 11-9 edge on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils committed 25 turnovers in the contest and South Gallia finished the evening with 24 miscues.
The hosts connected on 18-of-46 field goal attempts for 39 percent, including a 6-of-17 effort from three-point range for 35 percent. SGHS was also 18-of-30 at the free throw line for 60 percent.
Joseph Ehman paced South Gallia with a game-high 21 points, with 11 of those coming after the third quarter. Landon Hutchinson and Kane Hutchinson were next with 14 points apiece, while Cory Rhodes added five markers.
Drenner, Curtis Haner and Dominick Johnson rounded out the winning tally with two points each. Johnson led the hosts with eight rebounds and Kane Hutchinson also hauled in seven caroms.
Gallia Academy sank 20-of-54 shot attempts for 37 percent, which included a 6-of-20 effort from behind the arc for 30 percent. The guests also netted 13-of-21 charity tosses for 62 percent.
Jarrell paced the Blue Devils with a double-double effort of 15 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Evan Wiseman with 11 points and Justin McClelland with eight markers.
Cornwell, Henry and Carter each contributed seven points, while Drew VanSickle rounded things out with four markers. Carter also hauled in eight rebounds in the setback.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.