CENTENARY, Ohio — It lived up to the county hype.
The River Valley boys basketball team fought back, but it wasn’t enough against host Gallia Academy as the Blue Devils defeated the Raiders 59-55 on Friday night in Gallia County.
The host Blue Devils (1-1) were in control for much of the game, but the Raiders (1-2) came back strong in the second half and turned the contest into a nailbitter.
Devin Henry scored the first points of the game for Gallia Academy at the 6:11 mark of the first quarter. River Valley bounced back with five points from Kirk Morrow to give the visitors an edge.
The Blue and White reclaimed the lead with back-to-back three-point shots from Miles Cornwell. Evan Wiseman netted a three of his own to keep the Silver and Black in striking distance.
The Blue Devils started to pull away after Henry and Justin Peck scored to give the home a team a 16-11 lead with 1:37 to go. Jacob Dovenbarger connected from beyond the arc to make it a two-point game. Peck added three points with 10 seconds to give Gallia Academy a 19-14 lead after one quarter of play.
River Valley opened the second quarter with a three-point shot from Patrick Brown. The Blue and White responded with a 11-0 run. Morrow ended Gallia Academy’s run with a shot from beyond the arc with 4:39 left in the first half. A bucket from Henry at the end of the second quarter gave the Blue Devils a 34-22 lead going into halftime.
Gallia Academy out-rebounded River Valley by a 5-1 ratio in the first half of play. However, the Raiders were 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range, while the Blue Devils were 3-for-8 from beyond the arc.
The home team kicked off the third quarter with a three from Cornwell. Morrow kicked off a 7-0 River Valley run with a free throw at the 5:48 mark. Both teams traded baskets throughout the third period, but Gallia Academy kept a 47-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Dovenbarger netted a lay-up at the beginning of the fourth quarter to start a 9-0 run for the Raiders get within two points of the Blue Devils. Wiseman kept the home team in the lead with a three-point play with 4:51 left in the contest. Dovenbarger netted a three-pointer with 4:09 left in the quarter to make it a two-point game. Mark Wray connected with a free-throw to get the Silver and Black within one.
The home team came back with three points from Wes Jarrett to give the Blue Devils a little cushion late in the game. Morrow and Jarrett McCarley’s combined four points gave River Valley a chance, but too much time had run out.
Gallia Academy shot 22-of-47 (46.8 percent) for the game and 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) from the free-throw line — including going 5-for-13 from the stripe in the fourth quarter. River Valley was 16-of-45 (35.5 percent) from the field and 17-for-26 (65.3 percent) from the foul line — including going 8-for-10 from line in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils had a 34-18 advantage in rebounds. River Valley turned the ball over seen times, while Gallia Academy had 12 turnovers.
Cornwell and Peck led the Blue and White with 15 points each, followed by Jarrett with 13 points. Henry finished with seven points, while Wiseman and Kole Carter each contributed five points and three points respectively for the Blue Devils.
“It was a rivalry game,” Gallia Academy coach Gary Harrison. “River Valley’s a good team. There’s no doubt about that. I knew coming into this game it would be a tough game and it was. We were up 15 or 16 points at one point and I told our kids the game wasn’t over yet and they were going to make a run. They can shoot and they’ve got good players. I respect their program. People paid money and they got their money’s worth.”
Morrow paced the Silver and Black with a game-high 21 points. Wray had nine points, followed by Dovenbarger and Dayton Hardway with eight points each. McCarly finished with six points, while Brown contributed three points for the Raiders.
“We’ve gotta go back to the drawing board, recover and get ready for the rest of the season,” River Valley coach Jeremy Peck said. “My hat’s off to Gallia Academy. They came out with a game plan. My seniors stepped up tonight and played great. Jacob Dovenbarger played great. Mark Wray played excellent defense. It was a great game all around from both sides.”
Gallia Academy travels to Chesapeake on Friday to play the Panthers, while River Valley will go on the road to face Alexander on Tuesday. Both leagues contests will tip-off at approximately 7:15 p.m.
Donald Lambert can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106