CENTENARY, Ohio — Winning close games is a true mark of a good team.
The Gallia Academy boys basketball team claimed a 43-40 decision Friday night, holding off Ohio Valley Conference guest Ironton for the Blue Devils’ second straight win.
GAHS (3-2, 2-2 OVC) charged out to a 10-4 lead 5:30 into play, but the Fighting Tigers (2-3, 0-2) rallied back to take the 13-12 lead by the end of the opening stanza.
IHS began the second period with a 12-2 run, pushing the lead to 25-14 with 5:00 left in the first half. Ironton managed just one point over the remainder of the quarter, allowing Gallia Academy to trim the deficit to 26-20 by halftime.
The Blue Devils stormed out of the half, scoring eight straight points and taking a 28-26 lead on back-to-back Kole Carter free throws with 4:16 left in the third quarter. The Fighting Tigers managed only three points in the third quarter, all on free throws, and the Blue Devils led 30-29 with one quarter remaining.
“I don’t know if anything changed, I just think that we got some looks that we really weren’t getting in the first half,” GAHS head coach Gary Harrison said of the third quarter run. “I think we pushed the tempo a little bit, and Ironton came out a little bit flat.”
Ironton sank its first field goal of the second half at the 5:39 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Fighting Tigers took a 33-32 lead. The Blue Devils regained the advantage at the 4:35 mark when Miles Cornwell sank a three-pointer on an assist by Wes Jarrell.
Kole Carter gave the Blue and White some breathing room with a layup at the 2:48 mark, but Ironton was back within one point when Phil Katzenberg hit a trifecta off of an assist by Marques Davis with 1:57 remaining. Gallia Academy’s lead grew to 39-36 with two Evan Wiseman free throws at the 1:29 mark, but IHS answered with 1:03 remaining, as Charlie Large hit a two-pointer on an assist by Desmond Young.
GAHS senior Devin Henry hit a layup with 24 seconds left, giving Gallia Academy a 41-38 lead, but with 11 seconds left Large made another two-pointer, this time on an assist by Davis.
With 5.9 seconds left Jarrell went to the charity stripe for the Blue and White, where he sank two free throws to extend the lead to 43-40. Ironton missed a two-point attempt at the buzzer and Gallia Academy claimed the 43-40 victory.
“This is great for our program,” GAHS head coach Gary Harrison said. “Give credit to our kids, we were down six at halftime and our kids kept fighting. Our kids wouldn’t quit and made free throws at the end, which we haven’t done all year. The only thing I can say is hats off to our kids, Ironton’s still a great team and they’re going to be tough to beat in the end. Coach LaFon is a heck of a coach, he’s built a great program at Ironton and he does a lot for basketball in this area.”
Jarrell led the Blue Devils with 16 points, followed by Wiseman with eight and Henry with six. Carter posted four points, Cornwell added three on the lone GAHS trifecta, while Drew VanSickle and Justin McClelland each had two points. Justin Peck rounded out the Gallia Academy total with one point in the win.
The Blue Devils shot 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) from the free throw line and 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) from the field, including 1-of-6 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team GAHS had 16 defensive rebounds, three offensive boards, 11 assists, 11 steals, one block, 12 turnovers and 13 fouls.
Carter led GAHS on the boards with five rebounds, followed by Wiseman and Peck with four each. Cornwell and Jarrell led the Blue Devil defense with three steals each, while Henry had a team-best three assists and Peck had the lone GAHS block.
Davis led Ironton with 10 points, followed by Large with nine and Kratzenberg with eight. Ethan Wilson had six points, Ryan Bryant added five, while Tyler Webb finished with three markers.
Ironton shot 7-of-10 (70 percent) from the free throw line, 14-of-39 (35.9 percent) from the field and 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The Orange and Black had 16 defensive rebounds, eight offensive rebounds, 10 assists, eight steals, one block, 16 turnovers and 12 fouls in the setback.
Webb marked a game-high six rebounds, while Young led the Fighting Tigers with four assists. Large and Kratzenberg each posted two steals to lead the IHS defense, while Bryant had the lone Ironton block.
GAHS will look to sweep IHS on January 26, when the Blue Devils invade Lawrence County. Gallia Academy will go for its third straight win on Tuesday at South Gallia.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.