GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — While everyone else was left scratching their heads, all the Defenders could do was hold theirs high.
The Ohio Valley Christian boys basketball team pulled off one of the biggest wins in program history while knocking off visiting Wellston during a 77-66 overtime decision Monday night in a non-conference matchup in the Old French City.
The Defenders (17-5) sent shock waves throughout most of southeastern Ohio with their victory, but the hosts never backed down against the larger Golden Rockets — who are a Division III program by OHSAA standards.
Ohio Valley Christian battled through six ties and 11 lead changes throughout the course of regulation, which ultimately ended up deadlocked at 61. The Blue and White, however, never trailed in the extra session after scoring the first nine points to secure a 70-61 cushion with 1:32 remaining.
WHS (10-8) broke its overtime scoring drought when Braydon Womeldorf netted a basket 11 seconds later to close to within seven, but the hosts reeled off a 7-0 run to take their largest lead of the night at 77-63 with 7.7 seconds left.
Womeldorf hit a late trifecta at the buzzer to complete a 2-of-8 shooting effort by the Rockets in OT, as well as round out the final 11-point difference.
Despite having less than a tenth of Wellston’s public school enrollment, OVCS somehow managed to find a way to beat a program that had recently recorded wins over such teams as Meigs, Jackson, Oak Hill and Southeastern.
Following the big victory, sixth-year OVCS coach Steve Rice couldn’t have been more pleased for his troops. And, as he noted, they deserved every drop of this eventual outcome.
“We talked before the game about having some heart, effort and attitude tonight. We came in wanting this game more than they did, and all of that showed in the end,” Rice said. “We wanted the ball to go inside offensively and our guards did an amazing job of handling that press.
“We collectively played about as well as we could for the better the better part of 36 minutes. It was a huge boost for us to have everyone contribute to this win and we definitely feel like there is some momentum to be gained from this.”
The Golden Rockets never led by more than three points and were ahead for 1:43 during the 36 minutes of play. OVCS, conversely, led by as many as nine in the first half and held two-possession advantages in each of the four quarters of play.
The Defenders made 9-of-17 shot attempts in the opening frame and held their largest lead in regulation at 20-13 after Austin Ragan netted a basket with 1:40 showing on the clock. WHS, however, responded with a quick 6-0 spurt to end the period trailing 20-19.
The hosts went on a 7-2 run to open up a 27-21 cushion midway through the second stanza, but Wellston answered with an 11-2 surge over the next two minutes to claim a 32-29 edge. OVCS closed the half on a 6-3 run as both teams entered halftime tied at 35.
Ohio Valley Christian made a 5-0 run to start the second half and were again up five points (46-41) with 2:14 left in the canto, but the Blue and Gold responded with the final six points of the third quarter — giving WHS what proved to be its last lead of the night at 47-46 headed into the finale.
The Defenders thrice led by six points in the fourth after a 12-5 run made it a 58-52 contest with 5:19 remaining, but Wellston gradually whittled the game back to a 59-all tie with 3:45 to go.
Justin Beaver hauled in an offensive rebound and converted the putback with 1:36 left, allowing the hosts to take the final lead of regulation at 61-59. Womeldorf, however, ended the fourth quarter scoring by sinking a basket with 45 seconds left.
A Marshall Hood basket gave the hosts a permanent cushion 11 seconds into OT, and that goal sparked the pivotal 9-0 run during the extra four-minute session. WHS trailed by double digits over the final 39 seconds of the game.
The Defenders connected on 25-of-57 field goal attempts for 44 percent, which included a 9-of-24 effort from three-point range for 38 percent. The hosts committed only 12 turnovers against multiple trapping defenses and also went 18-of-28 at the free throw line for 64 percent.
Hood led OVCS with a double-double effort of 27 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Elijah McDonald with 18 points and Austin Ragan with 14 markers. Justin Sizemore also had eight points for the victors.
Dillon Ragan contributed six points and Beaver rounded out the Ohio Valley Christian tally with four markers. Beaver also hauled in 10 rebounds for the hosts, who claimed a slim 39-36 overall advantage on the glass.
The Golden Rockets netted 28-of-70 shot attempts for 40 percent, including an 8-of-22 performance from behind the arc for 38 percent. WHS committed 11 turnovers — four of which came in overtime — and also went 2-of-3 at the charity stripe for 67 percent.
Womeldorf paced Wellston with 20 points, followed by Caleb Stanley with a double-double effort of 16 points and 14 rebounds. Ryan Hawk and Justin Rafferty also contributed 15 and nine markers, respectively, in the setback.
Ohio Valley Christian has now won five consecutive decisions and will opens OCSAA tournament play on Friday night when it hosts East Dayton Christian at 6 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.