ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio —In seemingly one fell swoop, Christian Mattox quieted an Alexander rally — and the host Meigs Marauders marched to the beat of the free-throw line drum.
As a result, the Marauders crafted a key Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division boys basketball victory on Friday night, fending off the hard-charging Spartans 63-55 inside a packed and pumped Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium.
With the win, the Marauders exacted a serious measure of revenge on the Spartans, which handed Meigs its first loss of the season on Jan. 15 — 80-69 inside Alexander’s infamous ‘Alley’.
The Marauders moved to 15-3 following Friday night, as Meigs raced out to an 11-0 mark before losing at Alexander.
In addition, Meigs (7-3 TVC-Ohio), Athens (7-3 TVC-Ohio) and Alexander (8-3 TVC-Ohio) all own three TVC-Ohio losses, while Vinton County (8-2)— a 68-50 winner at River Valley on Friday — regains sole control of first-place in the league.
The Marauders can make it a four-way three-loss situation after Tuesday, when Meigs visits Vinton County.
However, they first had to defeat Alexander — and after an excruciating 68-65 loss last Saturday night at Athens.
“Our kids are mentally tough, and we’ve been through a lot the last few weeks after that 11-0 start. But I have complete confidence in them in those situations,” said Meigs coach Ed Fry. “I had complete confidence in them last Saturday night up at Athens. That was a game where we could have come out of it either way. It was a game we probably should have won, but we didn’t. So our kids responded with a great week of practice and we worked on a bunch of stuff that you saw all of tonight. Tonight was a great win for our kids against a really good Alexander team. With a packed house, it was what high school basketball is all about.”
The Marauders also ran the roller-coaster of emotions on Friday night.
Meigs led against Alexander from the opening tip to the third-quarter buzzer, building as large as a 20-8 lead following the first quarter — and maintaining it at 30-18 halfway through the second stanza.
Then, when the Spartans stormed back to wipe out that advantage, and seized their first lead (49-46) only 30 seconds into the final quarter, Meigs managed to make all but four of its fourth-quarter free throws.
As part of their 35 total attempts, the Marauders made 26, including 14-of-18 in the fourth period — and 19-of-24 in the entire second half.
Alexander, on the other hand, only attempted five free throws — with Mason Chapman in the second quarter and Cory Chapman in the third frame both splitting a pair.
The Spartans were whistled for 25 fouls, including Mason Chapman’s fifth on an offensive call with 2:13 remaining.
The Marauders, meanwhile, had only nine personal fouls — as Alexander was forced to foul with Meigs holding a 56-53 lead in the final two-and-a-half minutes.
The Marauder responsible for that fourth and final lead change to break the fourth and final tie — all in the fourth quarter — was Mattox.
He scored 17 points and made three of the Marauders’ seven three-pointers, but none was bigger than his one off the right wing with 2:32 to play.
“I knew going in that Christian Mattox was the wild card. They didn’t really match up well with us with him in the lineup,” said Fry. “They would have a bigger guy try to cover him or some of our other smaller people.”
From there, Meigs ran a four-corners keep-away offense, throwing passes across zones for an entire 65 seconds.
Luke Musser made two double-bonus free throws with 38 seconds left, followed by two more by Dillon Mahr that made it 60-53.
Kaileb Sheets sank two others with 18 seconds to go, as Colton Lilly split a pair with 11.6 tics to play for the 63-55 final.
Fry said the more made free throws on Friday night the merrier.
“That’s probably the best we’ve shot free throws all season,” he said. “We’ve worked on getting to the rim and getting fouled.”
Meigs’ zone defense, however, was as good as usual.
After only eight points in the opening quarter — followed by 38 in the middle two cantos — the Spartans scored just nine in the fourth period, including a Jake Weaver three-pointer that gave them their 49-46 edge only 30 seconds in.
Seth Richardson tied the game at 51-51 at the five-minute mark, as Alexander took its final lead just 15 seconds later on a bucket by Cory Chapman.
However, Alexander’s only other field goal of the quarter came with 19.5 seconds left off a steal and hoop by Kyle Howard.
The Spartans struggled shooting from the perimeter against the Marauders’ zone defenses.
They were 7-of-20 from outside the arc for the entire game, going 12-of-32 from the field in the first half.
Fry said “we threw the kitchen sink at them (Spartans) defensively.”
“Late in the game, our 3-2 zone is what seemed to be working so we stayed with that,” he said.
While the Marauders’ zone worked late, they shot well early, opening up their pair of dozen-point leads.
They shot 50-percent in the first half, including 5-of-9 from three-point land, in which Mattox, Musser and Sheets in the first quarter and Musser and Sheets in the second period all hit treys.
“It’s always really important for us to get off to a good start,” said Fry. “We need to start the game getting the ball distributed and involving everybody. When we don’t do that, we’re not a very good basketball team. But tonight we did that.”
Sheets — on five field goals and 6-of-8 fourth-quarter free throws — led all scorers with 18 points, while Mattox mustered 17 on five field goals and 4-of-5 foul shots.
Musser managed 10 on two threes and 4-of-6 freebies, while Lilly landed three field goals and 5-of-8 free throws for 11.
Meigs made half of its 14 three-point attempts, while shooting 46-percent for the entire game (15-of-33), compared to 40-percent for Alexander (23-of-57).
Sheets also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
Mahr made all four of his fourth-quarter free throws, while Jared Kennedy canned 3-of-4 in the opening period.
Mason Chapman led the Spartans with 15 points, including four threes — none of which was bigger than the top-of-the-key triple that beat the third-quarter buzzer and tied the tilt at 46-46.
A Chapman free throw followed by another three trimmed the deficit to 22-14, as a Weaver three sliced the deficit down to 34-30 at halftime.
Meigs maintained anywhere from a one-to-seven point cushion throughout the third frame.
Weaver wound up with 10 points while Cory Chapman chalked up nine, as both finished with four field goals apiece.
Richardson with four field goals for eight points, Howard with two toward five, and Michael Norris and Chace Harris with two field goals apiece rounded out the Red and Black.
Meigs was set to host non-league Wahama on Saturday night for Senior Night.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106