RACINE, Ohio — Talk about saving your best for last.
The Southern boys basketball team trailed by double digits with 1:17 left in the third period, but the Tornadoes made a valiant 28-7 charge over the final nine minutes of regulation Tuesday night to secure a 73-62 victory over visiting Miller in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup at Charles W. Hayman Gymnasium.
The host Tornadoes (6-5, 4-4 TVC Hocking) struggled to stay within striking distance of the Falcons, as MHS shot 51 percent from the field through three quarters of play en route to establishing a 56-47 advantage headed into the finale.
Southern, however, found its rhythm down the stretch, as the hosts forced nine turnovers and shot 53 percent from the floor while going on a 26-6 charge over the final eight minutes to wrap up the 11-point triumph. The final margin of victory was also the largest lead for either team in the contest.
Miller (3-7, 3-3) — which connected on just 3-of-18 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter — had five turnovers just two minutes into the finale and ultimately finished the night with 28 giveaways. Southern, conversely, had just six miscues after the break and 17 total in the triumph.
The Tornadoes moved over the .500 mark overall for the first time since the third week of the regular season, and the hosts also won their third straight home contest while improving to .500 in league play. It was also the second consecutive victory this season for SHS.
Afterwards, SHS coach Jeff Caldwell mentioned that the most gratifying element of this win was the fact that his kids never stop believing — even after 24 ugly minutes of basketball.
“We talked with the guys afterward about how this was a character win for us because of how we trailed for so long in this game,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t play very great for three quarters and Miller was exceptionally hot, but we just had some guys step up and make some plays when we needed them in the fourth quarter. These guys played with a large amount of heart tonight and I’m really proud of their efforts.”
There were four ties and six lead changes in the opening period alone, but Miller rallied from a 2-0 deficit and secured its biggest lead of the quarter at 16-11 with 3:24 remaining. SHS rallied with a 6-1 run to pull even at 17 with a minute left, then Taylor McNickle hit a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining to give the hosts a 19-17 edge after eight minutes of play.
The Tornadoes increased their lead to as much as 22-19 with 6:08 left in the half, but the Falcons countered with a 7-0 run to claim a 26-22 lead with 3:34 remaining. Miller followed with a 10-8 spurt over the next three minutes to claim its biggest lead of the first half at 36-30, but SHS scored just before the halftime buzzer to pull within four at the break.
Southern was 10-of-22 from the field in the first half for a respectable 45 percent, which included a 4-of-9 effort from three-point range. The hosts also committed 11 turnovers in the opening 16 minutes.
The Falcons, conversely, sank 13-of-26 shot attempts in the first two stanzas, including a 4-of-12 effort from behind the arc. MHS also committed 13 turnovers before the intermission.
The Tornadoes twice pulled to within a point in the third canto, the last of which occurred at 41-40 with 4:57 left in the period. Miller countered with a 14-5 surge over the next 3:40 as Elijah Rader nailed a short jumper with 1:17 left to claim the guests’ biggest lead of the night at 55-45.
Southern — which went just 5-of-14 in the third canto — closed the period with a small 2-1 spurt to cut its deficit down to 56-47 headed into the finale. MHS went 8-of-15 from the floor in the third quarter and was also 21-of-41 from the field through three periods of play.
The Tornadoes reeled off the first six points of the fourth to pull within a possession at 56-53 with 6:08 left in regulation, then Tristen Wolfe capped a 6-2 surge with a basket at the 3:17 mark — giving SHS its first lead of the second half at 59-58.
Rader countered with a field goal at the 2:44 mark, allowing Miller to claim its final lead of the night at 60-59. Adam Pape gave Southern a permanent lead just 12 seconds later, as the senior’s field goal sparked a 9-0 surge for a comfortable 68-60 advantage with one minute remaining.
Miller pulled to within two possessions (68-62) with 31 seconds left, but never came closer the rest of the way. The Tornadoes closed the game with a 5-0 run to wrap up the come-from-behind decision. The Tornadoes finished the fourth period 9-of-17 from the floor.
Southern connected on 24-of-53 field goal attempts overall for 45 percent, including a 5-of-14 effort from three-point range for 36 percent. The hosts were also 20-of-33 from the free throw line for 61 percent.
Tristen Wolfe led SHS with a game-high 24 points, followed by Adam Pape with 17 points and Taylor McNickle with 14 markers. Chandler Drummer chipped in eight points to the winning cause, while Zac Beegle and Dennis Teaford respectively added five and three points. Casey Pickens rounded out the scoring with two markers.
MHS finished the game 24-of-59 overall from the floor, including a 7-of-20 effort from three-point range for 35 percent. Miller was also 0-for-4 from behind the arc down the stretch.
Trent Abram paced the Falcons with 14 points, followed by Hunter Starlin with 12 points and Elijah Rader with nine markers. The guests were 7-of-15 at the free throw line for 47 percent.