RACINE, Ohio — Now that’s how you close a win on the road.
Leading by just one point headed into the final quarter, the Belpre boys basketball team posted 26 points over the final eight minutes to take a 68-57 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division victory over host Southern, Tuesday night in Meigs County.
The Tornadoes (0-10, 0-6 TVC Hocking) were held scoreless for the first 3:30 of play, but the Purple and Gold took a 4-3 lead 5:30 in to the game on the second of back-to-back Blake Johnson free throw makes. The Golden Eagles (6-6, 5-2) quickly regained the advantage, as they outscored their hosts 9-to-5 over the remainder of the period, making the BHS lead 12-9 at the end of the first.
Belpre, which scored the first six points of the second quarter, expanded its lead to a first half-high 11 points by the 2:45 mark of the period. Trailing 24-13, the Tornadoes ended the second with a 12-2 run that made their deficit 26-25 at halftime.
“Even though we weren’t down a lot at the end of the first quarter, I feel like just start off a little flat,” Southern head coach Jeff Caldwell said. “I like the way our guys are responding though, we were down 11 in the second quarter and they made a run to cut it to one at halftime.”
After five lead changes within the first five minutes of the second half, Southern took its largest lead of the night at 37-35. However, Belpre reeled off seven straight points within a 45-second span, regaining the advantage. The Tornadoes scored four points over the final 30 seconds of the third, which cut Belpre’s lead to 46-45 with eight minutes left in regulation.
The Orange and Black began the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run, pushing the lead to 57-47. The Tornadoes — who committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter and allowed Belpre to grab five offensive rebounds — never trimmed the deficit below seven points in the final six minutes. The Golden Eagles, who were benefited by three Tornadoes fouling out in the fourth quarter, sank 10-of-16 free throws in the final stanza and claimed the 68-47 decision.
“When the game is in the fourth quarter and you have somebody on your home court in a close ball game, you have to play smarter,” Caldwell said. “We turned the ball over a few times and the foul trouble really hurt us. Our guys have to learn that when the fourth quarter comes, you have to be able to play defense without fouling. I really thought the foul trouble hurt us on the defensive end.”
SHS junior Crenson Rogers paced the Purple and Gold with 19 points, followed by Blake Johnson and Dylan Smith with 11 and 10 points respectively. Jaylen Blanks scored seven points, Jonah Hoback added five, while Trey Pickens marked four and Clayton Wood scored one in the setback.
Rogers also led Southern on the glass with nine rebounds, followed by Blanks with five. Hoback posted a team-best five assists, while Smith had three assists. Smith, Johnson, Blanks, Hoback and Wood each had two steals in the game, while Wood, Smith and Blanks each fouled out of the contest.
The Tornadoes shot 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) from the free throw line and 19-of-45 (42.2 percent) from the field, including 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from three-point range. As a team SHS had 20 defensive rebounds, eight offensive boards, 11 assists, 12 steals and 23 turnovers.
Belpre was led by Deijon Bedgood and Tavian Miller with 17 points apiece, followed Kaurice Waderker with 11 and Mythius Houghton with five. Bailey Sprague scored four points, while Brayden Longfellow and Ryan Simoniette rounded out the Golden Eagle scoring with three points apiece.
Bedgood finished with a Belpre-best nine rebounds, while Williams added eight and Miller marked seven. Bedgood and Miller also led the Orange and Black on defense, each recording four steals and a blocked shot, while Houghton had a game-high six assists.
The Golden Eagles made 18-of-31 (58.1 percent) free throw attempts and 24-of-50 (48 percent) field goal attempts, including 2-of-9 (22.2 percent) three-point tries. The Orange and Black finished with 23 defensive rebounds, 12 offensive rebounds, 16 assists, 15 steals, three blocks and 19 turnovers.
The Tornadoes will look to avenge this setback on February 5, when the Purple and Gold visit Washington County. Southern will return to action on Friday at 4-5 Miller.
“Our guys found out that they can play with varsity basketball players,” said Caldwell. “They’re responding when they have to and one thing about these guys is that they always come back ready to practice the next day. We’ll get two quality practices in Wednesday and Thursday, then we’ll head to Miller and that’s going to be another challenge for us.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.