BIDWELL, Ohio — For a boys basketball team without a win this season, you sure couldn’t tell it Tuesday night.
Visiting Jackson held River Valley scoreless for 9:49 through the middle quarters and used an 18-0 charge during that span to secure its first victory under head coach Bob Kight with a 44-41 decision in a non-conference matchup in Gallia County.
The Ironmen (1-15) led 9-8 after eight minutes of play, but the Raiders (3-14) countered with a 10-5 second quarter run to claim their biggest lead of the night at 19-13 with 2:19 remaining in the half.
JHS held the hosts scoreless the rest of period while going on a 4-0 run to pull within 19-17 at the break, then made a 14-0 surge to start the third canto to take its biggest lead of the night at 31-19 with 2:11 left.
River Valley — which missed 16 consecutive field goal attempts during that near-10-minute drought — finally broke into the second half scoring column with 29.8 seconds remaining, as Justin Rusk canned a pair of free throws to cut the deficit down to 31-21.
Burnie Stanley had the lone bright spot for RVHS in a 1-of-13 shooting effort during the third stanza, as his runner in the lane with two seconds left allowed the hosts to pull within eight (31-23) headed into the finale.
Jackson extended its lead back out to double digits 40 seconds into the fourth, but the Raiders answered with a 16-7 charge of their own to close to within 40-39 with 2:05 left in regulation.
RVHS, however, never came closer the rest of the way, and the Ironmen closed the game with a small 4-2 spurt to wrap up their first victory of the 2012-13 campaign.
After 15 consecutive setbacks, first-year JHS coach Bob Kight was proud of his troops for their continued efforts — both Tuesday night and throughout this otherwise long year. As he noted afterwards, his Ironmen are not laying down.
“I am happy for the kids, they played hard,” Kight said. “I think the things I am most proud of tonight was the run we made there in the middle periods and the fact that our defense held River Valley without a point until the 29-second mark of the third quarter. That’s about as good as we can play defensively.”
“We’ve continued to battle through the tough times, and tonight, that hard work was rewarded. This is a great sign of the maturity we have gained this season and I am proud of them for that. We still have lot of work to do, but it will be a fun bus ride home tonight.”
Conversely, it was a tough setback for RVHS coach Jordan Hill — who went with a younger starting lineup than normal for Tuesday night’s contest. The Raiders started a freshman and three sophomores, and some of that inexperience showed at key junctions.
“It was a game where points were at a premium, and we failed to score when we had a chance to extend our early lead,” Hill said. “Honestly, our defense let us down there in the third quarter and we had to fight up-hill the rest of the night. We played hard and battled back, but it was ultimately too little, too late.
“I feel that if we could have converted some more opportunities into points there in the first half, it could have changed the momentum of the game. It’s hard to win games when you don’t convert opportunities into points.”
The Raiders jumped out to leads of 4-0 and 6-1, but Jackson answered with eight straight points to claim its biggest lead of the first half at 9-6 with 3:03 left in the first. The hosts countered with a basket at the 1:15 mark, which ended the first period scoring at 9-8.
Jackson — which missed its first seven shots of the first quarter — came up empty on its first eight field goal tries in the second canto, and River Valley took advantage by using an 11-4 surge to claim a 19-13 cushion with just over two minutes left in the half.
Rusty Hatten capped a JHS 4-0 run with 44 seconds remaining after a field goal pulled the guests to within 19-17, which ended up being the final points of the first half.
RVHS was 7-of-27 from the field in the opening 16 minutes for 26 percent, including an 0-for-6 effort from three-point range. Jackson, conversely, was 8-of-30 from the field for 27 percent during the span — including an 0-for-5 effort from behind the arc.
The Ironmen had nine turnovers at the intermission, one more than the hosts’ tally of eight. The Raiders also missed their final four shot attempts in the second stanza.
Jackson hit its first three shot attempts to start the second half and made 6-of-12 field goal tries overall in the third period. Evan Crabtree tied the game at 19-all just 25 seconds into the third, then Nick Bachtel followed with a basket at the 7:02 mark to give Jackson a permanent lead at 21-19.
The guests followed with 10 more consecutive points, capped by a Crabtree field goal at the 2:11 mark — giving the Ironmen a 12-point cushion. Rusk and Stanley each added two points to stop the Raiders’ bleeding, pulling the hosts to within three possession headed into the stretch run.
Crabtree hit the opening basket of the fourth at the 7:21 mark for a 33-23 edge, but River Valley answered with an 11-4 run to pull to within a possession at 37-34 with 2:52 left in regulation.
Casey Walker doubled the Ironmen’s lead with a trifecta at 2:28, but Tyler Twyman answered with a three-pointer 13 seconds later to again get the hosts to within a possession at 40-37.
Crabtree picked up his fifth personal foul at the 2:05 mark, and John Qualls sank both of the ensuing free throws to put the hosts within striking distance at 40-39. Jackson answered with three consecutive points, and RVHS was never closer than 43-41 with 37.7 seconds left in regulation.
River Valley connected on 13-of-52 field goal attempts overall for 25 percent, including a 3-of-15 effort from three-point range for 20 percent. The hosts had 17 turnovers in the setback and were also 12-of-17 at the free throw line for 71 percent.
Ethan Dovenbarger led RVHS with nine points, followed by Brycen Hatfield with eight markers. Tyler Twyman and Justin Rusk each added six points, while John Qualls and Seann Roberts both chipped in four markers apiece. Burnie Stanley and Kyle Bays rounded out the scoring with two points each.
The Ironmen sank 18-of-55 shot attempts overall for 33 percent, including a 2-of-12 performance from behind the arc for 17 percent. Jackson committed 18 turnovers and also went 6-of-13 from the charity stripe for 46 percent.
Evan Crabtree paced JHS with a game-high 15 points, followed by Tyler Neal with 11 points and Nick Bachtel with seven markers. Casey Walker added five points to the winning cause, while Rusty Hatten and Jordan Helman each contributed three markers.