JACKSON, Ohio — Not necessarily pretty, but incredibly rewarding nonetheless.
The South Gallia girls basketball team held off a late rally by Ironton Saint Joseph while earning just its second district championship appearance in school history Thursday night during a 33-29 victory in a Division IV district semifinal contest at Jackson High School.
The third-seeded Lady Rebels (19-5) and the second-seeded Lady Flyers (19-4) battled through two ties and five lead changes in the opening half, but SGHS took a permanent lead with 4:10 left in the second canto after a Sara Bailey trifecta gave the guests an 8-5 cushion.
Ironton St. Joe — which trailed 15-8 at the intermission — shot just 15 percent from the field (6-of-43) through three quarters and seven minutes of play, and the hosts trailed by as much as 29-18 with 57 seconds left in regulation. Then, the Lady Flyers caught fire — making their final four shots of the contest while trimming their deficit down to 31-29 with 10 seconds remaining.
ISJHS, however, committed an intentional foul on the ensuing inbounds pass to Ellie Bostic, and the SGHS senior netted both free throws with 4.2 seconds left — allowing South Gallia to wrap up the four-point decision and the program’s first district championship game since the 1997-98 campaign.
The Lady Rebels, with the win, will face top-seeded Eastern in the Division IV district final at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio.
South Gallia — which lost to North Adams in its only other district championship contest — lost to the Lady Eagles (20-4) in their two Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchups by scores of 63-25 and 73-44 during the regular season.
Following the game, SGHS coach Brett Bostic was excited that his troops found a way to win when the pressure was at its peak. Then again, Bostic also seemed a little relieved to finally have his first district tournament victory.
“It was ugly, and a little nerve-racking there at the end, but it is a satisfying victory. And this time of year, a victory is a victory,” Bostic said. “We did a good job of keeping the (Hannah) Miller girl shut down for most of the night, which was something we really focused on. We made some plays when we needed them and we made some free throws when we needed them, and that was the difference in the outcome.”
Both teams attempted 38 shots apiece in the contest, and neither squad managed to make more than 32 percent of those opportunities — which was evident in the quarter-by-quarter scoring.
There was one tie and two lead changes in the opening eight minutes of regulation, and each team held the lead once before SGHS secured a 3-2 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Hannah Miller started the second quarter scoring with a field goal at the 7:39 mark, giving ISJHS its final lead of the night at 4-3. The Lady Flyers, however, missed their next 10 shot attempts, and the Lady Rebels hit four straight shots to start the period for a 13-6 cushion with 2:51 left in the half.
Both teams traded a field goal over the final two minutes of the first half, allowing South Gallia to take a seven-point lead into the intermission. Ironton St. Joe had four turnovers at the break, half as many as the Lady Rebels’ tally of eight turnovers.
SGHS was 6-of-21 from the field in the opening half for 29 percent, including a 2-of-6 effort from three-point range for 33 percent. The Lady Flyers, conversely, netted 3-of-23 shot attempts in the first half for 13 percent — including a 0-for-7 effort from behind the arc.
St. Joe made a 6-0 run to start the third quarter, as a Hannah Miller field goal at the 5:22 mark allowed the hosts to pull within one point at 15-14. It was also as close as ISJHS would come the rest of the night.
Jasmyne Johnson ended the Lady Rebels’ scoring drought at the 4:47 mark with a field goal, which sparked a 7-1 surge over the next 2:44 for a 22-15 cushion. Amber Neal netted a trifecta with 1:30 left in the period, cutting St. Joe’s deficit down to 22-18 headed into the finale.
Rachel Johnson’s field goal at the 2:31 mark of the fourth gave SGHS its first double-digit lead of the night at 28-18, and a free throw Lesley Small with 57 seconds left in regulation handed the Lady Rebels an 11-point advantage — their biggest lead of the night.
Neal hit a three-pointer with 46 seconds left for a 29-21 contest, then Miller answered with a field goal and a three-pointer — allowing the hosts to cut their deficit down to 29-26 with 27 seconds left.
Johnson converted a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left to extend South Gallia’s lead back out to five, but Miller countered with a trifecta eight seconds later for a 31-29 deficit with 10 seconds left in regulation.
The Lady Rebels connected on 12-of-38 field goal attempts for just under 32 percent, including a 3-of-10 effort from three-point range for 30 percent. The guests committed 17 turnovers and also went 6-of-8 at the free throw line for 75 percent.
Jasmyne Johnson led SGHS with eight points, followed by Ellie Bostic with seven markers. Mikayla Poling and Meghan Caldwell each contributed six points to the winning cause, while Sara Bailey added three markers. Rachel Johnson and Lesley Small rounded out the respective scoring with two points and one marker.
The Lady Flyers sank 10-of-38 shot attempts for 26 percent, including a 5-of-14 effort from behind the arc for 36 percent. The hosts committed 10 turnovers and also went 4-of-15 at the charity stripe for 27 percent. ISJHS was also 2-of-9 at the free throw line in the second half, including a 0-for-4 performance in the fourth quarter.
Amber Neal and Hannah Miller each had 12 points to pace Ironton St. Joe, followed by Hannah Martin and Lynsey Booker with two markers apiece. Molly Miller also had one point to round out the scoring.
Bostic acknowledged that this win was special for many reasons, but he wouldn’t go as far as to call it his biggest win as South Gallia girls basketball coach.
“Yes, this is a special win for me and the program — but it’s no different than my first win or my 100th win. They have all meant something special to me,” Bostic said. “It’s a nice win for the kids. We get to extend our season and we get to play at the Convo for the first time in girls history. I know the girls are excited about the opportunity.”