MERCERVILLE, Ohio — It’s never too early to show a little character.
The South Gallia basketball team overcame several first half obstacles before finding its rhythm down the stretch Tuesday night during a 66-45 victory over visiting Symmes Valley in a non-conference matchup in Gallia County.
The Rebels (2-0) never trailed in the contest after establishing a 9-2 advantage less than three minutes into regulation, but the hosts missed their final seven field goal attempts and had two starters wind up in early foul trouble.
The Vikings (1-1) — who missed their first seven 3-point attempts, all in the first quarter — closed the opening period with a 5-2 run to pull within 11-7 after eight minutes of play.
SGHS extended its lead with a small 4-3 to start the second canto, as Joseph Ehman hit a basket at the 6:45 mark for a 15-10 advantage. The guests cut the deficit down to 15-11 on a Shawn Belville free throw, then Landon Hutchinson picked up his third foul with 5:29 left in the half — forcing him to the bench.
Both offenses continued to struggle, and SVHS closed the final 5-plus minutes on a small 4-2 run to enter the break trailing 17-15.
The Rebels were 6-of-25 from the field in the first half for 24 percent, including a 1-of-7 effort from behind the arc. Symmes Valley, conversely, was 5-of-20 overall for 25 percent, including a 2-of-10 effort from three-point territory.
SVHS held a 19-13 edge in rebounds at the break and committed eight turnovers, compared to five miscues by the hosts.
The Vikings made a small 3-2 run out of the third quarter gate after Collin Webb drilled a trifecta at the 6:20 mark, allowing the guests to close to within a single point at 19-18. Symmes Valley was also never closer the rest of the way.
South Gallia followed by going on a 15-2 surge over the next four minutes, allowing the hosts to secure a comfortable 34-20 cushion with 2:15 remaining in the third. SGHS led by as many as 18 points (40-22) in the canto before taking a 40-24 edge into the finale.
Symmes Valley never came closer than 42-32 with 6:46 remaining, and the hosts claimed their largest advantage of the night at 64-38 following a free throw by Austin Triplett with 1:28 left. SGHS also led the final 11:03 of regulation by double digits.
The Rebels made a 23-9 run in the third quarter on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, then followed with a 26-21 fourth quarter run on 10-of-17 shooting. Overall, the hosts shot 63 percent from the field in the second half — after surviving a treacherous run during the first 16 minutes.
It wasn’t a perfect four quarters of basketball by any stretch, but fourth-year SGHS coach was pleased with how well his troops responded to both adversity and some halftime adjustments. He also noted that his best offense on this night came on the defensive side of the floor.
“At halftime, we talked about the need to get the ball moving and get into a flow. I think we found that flow in the second half,” Howell said. “I think our defense was really the key for us tonight. Rather it be how bad our offense was in the first half or how well the offense looked in the second half, I thought the defense was solid most of the night. It kept us in the game and eventually allowed our offense to get going.”
Howell also praised his bench, which played such an important role in opening the home schedule with a victory.
“We challenge each other in practice, which carries over into the game. Our practices have been pretty competitive, so it’s created some depth for us … and that depth really helped us tonight,” Howell said. “When things were at their worst, we stayed focused on the task at hand and grinded through it. That was really big for us there in the first half.”
The Rebels connected 26-of-59 field goal attempts for 44 percent, including a 4-of-17 effort from behind the arc for 24 percent. The hosts were also 10-of-15 at the free throw line for 67 percent.
SGHS had eight different players reach the scoring column, led by Ehman with a game-high 24 points. Ehman hit four trifectas and scored 19 of his 24 points after suffering bloody gash above his eye while diving for a loose ball in the first quarter.
Kane Hutchinson was next with 14 points, while Landon Hutchinson added 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds in limited action. Dominick Johnson was next with six points, while Triplett and Darren Drenner each chipped in three points.
Curtis Haner and Caleb Henry also had two points apiece for the victors, who committed only nine turnovers in the game. Ehman and Johnson both hauled in six caroms each, while Drenner grabbed five rebounds.
SVHS outrebounded the hosts by a 38-33 overall margin and committed 15 turnovers in the contest while going 7-of-24 from the charity stripe for 29 percent. The guests were 16-of-56 overall from the field for 29 percent, including a 6-of-24 effort from 3-point range for 25 percent.
Webb paced the Vikings with 11 points, followed by Payton Hayes with nine points and Eric Baldwin with six markers. Shawn Belville and Forrest Humphrey followed with five and four points, respectively, in the setback.
Chayden Renfroe, Jase Patterson and Jarod Sheppard each contributed three points, while Levi Cade rounded things out with one point. Sheppard also hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds for the guests.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.