CENTENARY, Ohio — These party-crashers even took home the big present.
Visiting Fairland clinched the 2015-16 Ohio Valley Conference championship outright while also spoiling Senior Night festivities for the Gallia Academy boys basketball team Tuesday during a 66-46 decision in Gallia County.
The host Blue Devils (7-13, 5-8 OVC) honored seniors Clay Smith, Wes Jarrell, Kole Carter, Russell Matthew, Devin Henry and Drew VanSickle before the contest, then rode that emotion for roughly 10 minutes while establishing a 17-13 cushion 30 seconds into the second quarter.
The Dragons (16-4, 12-0), however, hit their first five shot attempts during a 13-0 charge over the next three minutes, which ultimately resulted in a 26-17 lead with 4:21 left in the first half.
GAHS — which had eight turnovers in the second canto — never came closer than 26-19 following a VanSickle basket at the 3:12 mark. The guests closed the period with a 17-6 surge to secure a 43-25 advantage at the break.
The Green and White increased their lead to 52-33 through three quarters and claimed their largest advantage of the game at 64-38 following an Isaiah Howell field goal with 4:16 left in regulation. The Blue and White ended the final 3:18 with an 8-2 run to wrap up the 20-point outcome.
Given the emotions that come with seniors playing in their final home game, third-year GAHS coach Gary Harrison thought his troops handled the situation quite well. But, as he noted, the Blue Devils simply ran into something a little better.
“We came out excited, and we were honestly more worried about the kids coming out flat because of what the night was. We came out on fire and we played with purpose, but we also had a feeling that we weren’t going to be able to keep that pace,” Harrison said. “You just have to give credit to Fairland because they are good. Our kids continued to play hard and they never quit, and that’s a testament to those six seniors and the leadership they have provided to this program.”
There were four ties and seven lead changes in the opening period, which led to a Gallia Academy 15-13 advantage. Wes Jarrell tacked on a field goal at the 7:28 mark of the second period, allowing the hosts to take their largest lead of the night.
FHS — which shot 57 percent from the field in the first half — hit 11-of-18 floor attempts during its 30-10 second quarter blitz, then the Dragons closed the final two frames with a slim 23-21 run.
The Green and White also claimed a season sweep after posting a 77-55 decision in Proctorville back on January 12.
Gallia Academy connected on 17-of-47 field goal attempts for 36 percent, including a 4-of-13 effort from behind the arc for 31 percent. The hosts committed 13 turnovers and also went 8-of-14 at the free throw line for 57 percent.
Henry led the Blue Devils with 14 points, followed by Jarrell with 13 points and VanSickle with six markers. Miles Cornwell was next with five points, while Carter contributed four points.
Matthew and Justin McClelland rounded out the GAHS tally with two points apiece. Jarrell led the Blue and White with nine rebounds.
The Dragons netted 25-of-52 shot attempts for 48 percent, which included a 3-of-15 effort from three-point territory for 20 percent. The guests committed 12 turnovers and also went 13-of-21 at the charity stripe for 62 percent.
Kollin Van Horn led Fairland with a game-high 21 points, followed by Isaiah Howell with 18 points and Luke Thomas with 15 markers. Gunner Short also chipped in five points to the winning cause.
Hunter Ashton was next with four points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Darius Stapleton rounded out Dragon tally with three markers.
Fairland outrebounded the hosts by a 34-25 overall margin, which included a 10-7 edge on the offensive glass.
Gallia Academy returns to action Friday when it travels to Portsmouth for the OVC finale at 6 p.m. GAHS also heads to Jackson Saturday for its final SEOAL contest at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.