By Brad Morris
A strong finish to each half on Sunday allowed host Gallia Academy to post a 51-34 win over Circleville in a Division II Southeast District sectional final.
The Tigers trailed the fifth-seeded Blue Devils just 9-8 after the first quarter, thanks in part to two three-pointers courtesy of Nolan West. Gallia Academy, however, used a 16-7 run during the second quarter to take a 25-15 lead into halftime and didn’t look back.
Briley Cramer and Slater Search paced the Tigers in their season-finale, scoring 10 points apiece, and West accounted for nine points.
Gallia Academy (19-6) was led by Isaac Clary with a game-high 14 points. The Blue Devils advance to a district semifinal on Wednesday against Mid-State League Buckeye Division co-champion Fairfield Union (21-3) inside Southeastern High School.
“I thought our guys were ready. Our coaching staff created a great game plan, and our players had a few really good practices in preparation for this game,” Circleville coach Cody Carpenter said. “Gallia Academy is a very good team and we knew that. We knew we would have to play our best game to win, but unfortunately it did not go as well as planned.
“Defensively, I thought we played well enough, but we struggled to score. They did a good job of making things really difficult on Briley in their box-and-one defense and we could never really get out in transition, which has been one of our strengths this season. I know our guys really wanted that one, with the run we had made just to get there, but it was just not our day.”
The Tigers (12-13) end the season with their most wins in a campaign since 2014 and also their most tournament wins (2), highlighted by their 61-46 upset over third-seeded Miami Trace last week.
“I think it is big because it sets a standard we are trying to set at Circleville,” Carpenter said. “To continue to have success and have a program the city of Circleville can be proud of.”
Carpenter saluted his departing seniors.
“I am very appreciative of our seniors Parker Kidwell, Matt Bradley, Ian Warden and Nolan West for their commitment to our program over the past four years,” he said. “They believed in what we were doing and where we wanted to take this program and they stuck through it during all the good and bad.”
The Tigers are slated to return their top two scorers and rebounders — Cramer and Search — and hope to make a push next season to finish what they started with their tournament run this month.
“I think these kids finally understand what it takes to win,” Carpenter said. “We are finally to a point where we have a lot of experienced kids at the varsity level, and we have multiple groups who have won in the past from varsity down to the elementary levels.
“Our older kids need to mentor our younger kids this offseason. They need to show the standard of work ethic on the court and in the weight room. I truly believe we only continue to improve from here on out.”
Division II Southeast District
No. 5 Gallia Academy 51,
No. 14 Circleville 34
CIRCLEVILLE — Nolan West 3-0-9, Matt Bradley 0-1-1, Briley Cramer 4-1-10, Parker Kidwell 0-1-1, Drew Thornsley 0-1-1, Ian Warden 1-0-2, Slater Search 5-0-10. Three-point goals — West (3) and Cramer. Total — 13 4-8 34.
GALLIA ACADEMY — Jance Lambert 4-0-10, Wesley Saunders 1-0-2, Carson Wamsley 2-0-4, Brody Fellure 3-3-9, Kenyon Franklin 4-0-10, Alex Blair 1-0-2, Isaac Clary 7-0-14. Three-point goals — Lambert (2) and Franklin (2). Total — 22 3-4 51.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 8 7 9 10 34
Gallia Academy 9 16 11 15 51