TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The Eagles battled back, but just couldn’t overtake the Tornadoes.
The Southern boys basketball team never trailed in the second half of Tuesday’s Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division bout at ‘The Nest’, winning 49-44 after having its lead cut from double digits down to a single possession in the fourth quarter.
Southern (6-7, 5-3 TVC Hocking) scored the opening basket of the night, but Eastern (6-7, 3-5) claimed the next seven markers for its largest lead of the game.
The Tornadoes regained the edge, at 11-9, on a Cole Steele three-pointer with 1:04 left in the first, and SHS led 13-11 at the end of the quarter.
A Trevor Morrissey three-pointer to open the second quarter have EHS a 14-13 lead, and the teams swapped the advantage three more times in the next five minutes, with the Purple and Gold taking the lead for good, at 21-20, on a Coltin Parker two-pointer with 3:32 left in the half.
The guests were ahead 26-22 at halftime, and started the second half with a 12-to-6 spurt for a 38-28 lead with 2:45 to go in the third.
Eastern claimed the final two points of the third, and then started the finale with a 9-to-4 run, cutting the Tornado lead to 42-39 with 4:47 to play. Southern scored seven of the next eight points, however, and led 49-40 with 51 seconds left.
SHS came up empty on three trips to the line in the final 50 seconds, but Eastern only managed a pair of buckets and fell by a 49-44 victory.
Following his team’s second straight triumph, 12th-year SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell was pleased with his team for winning a rivalry game on the road, and for taking care of the basketball, committing just 11 turnovers.
“That is a good, quality road win right there, I’m really proud of the guys for their effort, because it was a tough one,” Caldwell said. “It took a lot to tough it out, we knew Eastern was going to play us all the way to the buzzer. It was a battle, it wasn’t easy that’s for sure.
“We’ve been harping on it a little bit, those possessions in the first half are just as important as those possessions late in the game. You have to get good shots and take care of the ball, and I thought we did that for the most part tonight.”
For Eastern, second-year head coach David Kight noted his team’s 14 turnovers were costly in a game where possession is so highly valued, and acknowledged that the Eagle defense couldn’t make stops when it needed to.
“We didn’t turn it over as much as we have been, we did a little bit better job taking care of the ball, but it when you’re playing a game in the 40s, every possession counts,” Kight said. “That’s 14 times we couldn’t get a shot in the air. We got really good looks, we just couldn’t knock them down. We made a decent little run there in the fourth, we cut it to three, but anytime we cut it to 3-or-4, we couldn’t get that one stop on the other end of the floor to get possession back with a chance to tie it up.
“We can’t pout, we can’t hold our head down and feel sorry for ourselves, because Trimble’s not going to feel sorry for us and they’re going to be here at 6:00 on Friday night, looking for a win.”
Eastern won the rebounding battle by a 30-to-26 clip, including 11-to-9 on the offensive end. Collectively, the Tornadoes had 13 assists, four steals and three rejections, while EHS ended with 11 assists, two steals and one blocked shot.
Southern made 21-of-47 (44.7 percent) field goal attempts, including 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) three-point tries, while EHS was 19-of-52 (36.5 percent) from the field, including 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) from deep. Both teams tried six free throws, with the hosts making four for 66.7 percent, and SHS sinking one for 16.7 percent.
Steele hit a game-best four three-pointers and led the guests with 16 points. Arrow Drummer — who led the SHS defense with two blocks and a steal — had 15 points and six rebounds in the win. Parker scored a dozen for Southern, Landen Hill added four, while Trey McNickle marked two points and earned team-highs of seven rebounds and seven assists.
Leading Eastern, Garrett Barringer scored 12 points and pulled in eight rebounds, while coming up with a steal and a block on the defensive end. Morrissey tallied 11 points in the setback, while Mason Dishong added nine points and a game-best 14 rebounds. Derrick Metheney finished with eight points and five assists for the hosts, while Colton Reynolds chipped in with four points.
These teams are slated to meet again on Feb. 14 in Racine.
Next, both teams have home games on Friday, with South Gallia at Southern, and Trimble at Eastern.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.