MERCERVILLE, Ohio — The night belonged to Joseph Ehman, but it was far from a one-man show.
Ehman set a single-game scoring record with 40 points and the South Gallia boys basketball team forced 26 turnovers Tuesday night en route to a 74-59 victory over visiting Eastern in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Mason County.
The host Rebels (7-2, 4-2 TVC Hocking) found themselves in a first half dogfight against the Eagles (0-9, 0-6), as both teams battled through two ties and six lead changes before reaching a narrow 31-28 SGHS cushion at the break.
The Red and Gold, however, went on a 23-10 surge in the third canto, with Ehman leading that charge with 13 points as the hosts claimed a 54-38 cushion headed into the finale.
EHS hit its first six shot attempts in the fourth quarter as part of a 13-1 run while closing the gap down to 55-51 with 4:28 remaining, but the Rebels answered with a 14-2 spurt over the next 2:17 for a 67-53 edge with just over two minutes remaining.
South Gallia — which has now won three straight decisions — closed regulation with a 7-6 run to wrap up the 15-point outcome.
Eastern made nearly half of its shot attempts and shot a better percentage from the field, but those 26 miscues — with 16 of those coming in the middle quarters — ultimately doomed the winless Eagles. SGHS, conversely, committed only 16 turnovers total while also claiming a 12-7 edge on the offensive glass.
And then there was Ehman, who netted 14 total field goals (four trifectas) and 8-of-10 free throws to surpass the previous school record of 38 points held by both Curt Waugh and John Johnson. Ehman scored eight in the first, nine in the second and 10 points in the finale to go along with his monster third quarter.
The senior guard spoke about his historic evening afterwards, noting that the best part was the final outcome.
“This night means a lot to me, but I couldn’t have done this without my teammates. They knew I had a hot hand and they just kept feeding me the ball,” Ehman said. “Coach always stresses that we have to protect the home court and we were able to do that tonight. This record is nice, but the win makes it that much more special.”
SGHS coach Larry Howell also thought it was a special evening … not only because of Ehman’s feat, but also because of the performance put in by his troops.
“Honestly, we were tired of practicing after a two-week layoff. The guys came in here ready to play tonight and it showed,” Howell said. “We knew Eastern would come in and compete, and they did, but we really stepped it up defensively and found our rhythm from there.
“It was kind of like letting a caged animal out with these guys tonight, and then Joseph goes off and probably makes me look smarter than I really am. The guys played with intensity and looked hungry, and that was a good sign to see headed into the new year. It was a good win for us.”
After the guests whittled their largest deficit of 54-38 down to four points with over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, EHS coach Jeremy Hill truly believed that this could be the night to pick up that elusive first victory of the year.
The Eagles, however, netted only 3-of-10 shot attempts and committed three of their four fourth quarter turnovers over the final 4:14 of regulation.
“Much to their credit, I hardly ever have to worry about these kids not playing hard. The problem is that we never have five to seven players working together on the same page. You just never know which ones are going to show up and play and which ones aren’t,” Hill said. “Tonight I felt like we had an opportunity to win a game, but 26 turnovers won’t allow you to do that. We’re just so hot and cold right now, and that’s what makes this so tough.
“The only other thing I can say is my hat’s off to South Gallia. They came ready to play and worked hard for four quarters. They faced adversity tonight and overcame it and won.”
South Gallia connected on 28-of-62 field goal attempts for 45 percent, including a 5-of-19 effort from three-point range for 26 percent. The hosts were also 13-of-20 at the free throw line for 65 percent.
Landon Hutchinson followed Ehman with 19 points, while Kane Hutchinson and Dominick Johnson respectively added nine and four markers. D.J. Drenner rounded out the winning tally with two markers, while Ehman also led the Rebels with nine rebounds.
Eastern netted 21-of-43 field goal attempts for 49 percent, including a 7-of-19 effort from behind the arc for 37 percent. The guests outrebounded SGHS by a slim 29-28 margin and also went 10-of-19 at the charity stripe for 53 percent.
Jett Facemyer — who roughly missed the final six minutes of the first half due to foul trouble — paced Eastern with 20 points, followed by Chase Curtis with 16 points. Dylan Swatzel and Cameron Richmond each contributed nine markers, while Corbett Catlett and Ross Keller added two point apiece.
Ty Bissell completed the EHS scoring with one point. Swatzel led the guests with eight rebounds.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.