ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Defense down the stretch decided it.
The Meigs boys basketball team forced non-conference guest Southern into six turnovers in the final quarter on Friday night in Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, as the Marauders went on a 21-to-12 run to clinch a 63-53 victory in the season opener for both teams.
Meigs (1-0) scored the first seven points of the game, but Southern (0-1) trimmed its deficit to one point, at 15-14, by the end of the first quarter.
The Marauders started the second stanza with an 8-0 run, but SHS fought back and to within two points, at 30-28, by halftime.
A 5-to-2 run to start the second half gave the Tornadoes their first lead of the night, at 33-32, with 6:07 left in the third quarter. Meigs regained the edge with a bucket at the 5:13 mark of the period, and led for the remainder of the canto, taking a 42-41 lead into the finale.
The teams swapped leads four times in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter, with SHS senior Cole Steele and MHS senior Weston Baer exchanging three-pointers twice. Baer’s second three-pointer gave the Marauders the lead for good and started an 18-to-6 game-closing run.
Following the 63-53 win, second-year Marauders head coach Jeremy Hill talked about the expectations for his club, and commended his post players for helping the team start the season on the right foot.
“The kids have to buy in and understand how good they can be, then they have to execute and come together as a group. Once they do that, we can reel off quite a few wins in a row, I really do believe that,” Hill said. “We just have to execute a little bit better, and we have to play tighter defense. We’d let up a little bit, and when we did, Southern capitalized.
“Weston Baer, we rely on him every night, and it helps when our guys in the post, Bobby Musser and Wyatt Hoover, step up like they did tonight.”
Meanwhile, Tornadoes head coach Jeff Caldwell noted his team’s effort, but acknowledged the struggles down the stretch.
“We did some good things tonight, I’m proud of our guys for their effort,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t play our best in the fourth quarter, and that’s when you’ve got to play your best. We held them down, and then they scored 21 in the fourth quarter on us, so we have to get better there.”
The Maroon and Gold claimed a 30-to-28 advantage in rebounding, including 13-to-12 on the offensive end. Meigs had eight turnovers in the contest, just two of which came after halftime. SHS committed half of its 12 turnovers over the final eight minutes of play.
The Marauders finished with team totals of 12 assists, five blocked shots and four steals, while the Tornadoes combined for 14 assists, six steals and one block.
Meigs shot 22-of-49 (44.9 percent) from the field, including 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from three-point range, while Southern was 18-of-50 (36 percent) from the field, including 6-of-17 (35.3 percent) from beyond the arc. At the foul line, MHS made 12-of-20 (60 percent) and SHS sank 11-of-16 (68.8 percent).
Weston Baer led Meigs with 21 points, 15 of which came on three-pointers. Bobby Musser turned in a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, Cory Cox added 10 points and a team-best four assists, while Coulter Cleland contributed nine points to the winning cause. Wyatt Hoover scored four points for MHS, Cam Burnem came up with two, and Morgan Roberts rounded out the team total with one marker.
Musser and Baer also led the Marauder defense, with three blocks by Musser and two steals by Baer.
Southern was led by Cole Steele with 18 points, including a dozen from long range. Arrow Drummer scored 15 points in the setback, while Trey McNickle — who led the SHS defense with three steals and a block — recorded 11 points and team-highs of eight rebounds and eight assists. Coltin Parker collected four points for the Tornadoes, Ryan Laudermilt chipped in with three, while Chase Bailey added two points and seven rebounds.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday, with Meigs hosting Belpre, and Southern traveling to Nelsonville-York.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.