MARION — Despite scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter alone, Galion fell five points short of completing what would have been an amazing comeback against Pleasant on Thursday night.
After leading by as many as 25 points in the second half, the Spartans were forced to hold on to defeat the Tigers 85-80 in a Mid Ohio Athletic Conference contest at Stan Kirby Gymnasium.
“I’m tremendously proud of these guys,” Tigers head coach Ryan Stover said. “Their work ethic has been there every day. We don’t quit. There’s no quit in any of us.”
Galion senior Jaxon Oswald scored a career-high 30 points, including 21 points in the second half. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Tigers chipped away at the Spartans’ lead, cutting the deficit to three points on four occasions. Oswald hit four of the Tigers’ seven made three-point field goals.
“Ozzie stepped up,” Stover said. “We had to have someone get some offense going for us. He played a heck of a game. Any night it could be anyone who steps up for us. Numerous nights we’ve had somebody step up for us offensively. Tonight he did a heck of a job. We were just a little too late coming back.”
Senior Rece Payne added 16 points for the Tigers and sophomore Cooper Kent scored 12 points off the bench. Seniors Garrett Ison and Hudson Miller and sophomore Steven Glew each scored six points and sophomore Coen Fuson finished with four points.
Pleasant sophomore Trey Booker led the Spartans with 24 points. He tallied 15 points in the second half, scoring nine points in the final period to help his side earn the win.
Senior Grant Kantzer scored 17 points for the Spartans, hitting 9-of-12 free throw attempts. Senior Peydon Gosnell added 14 points, scoring 10 points in the third quarter. Sophomore Carson King scored nine points, all on three-point goals in the second quarter. Pleasant connected on seven three-point field goals.
The Tigers jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first period, but Pleasant grabbed a 21-15 advantage by the end of the quarter. The Spartans went on a 19-7 run to close out the quarter.
Pleasant doubled its lead by halftime after outscoring the Tigers 20-14 in the second period. Leading 29-24 with 4:58 remaining, the Spartans pieced together a 12-5 run to end the half with a 41-29 cushion.
The third quarter saw the Spartans press their advantage and add to their lead, which ballooned to 62-37 with 3:35 left in the quarter. Stover was whistled for a technical foul, which seemed to give the Tigers the emotional fuel they needed to jumpstart the comeback in the final period.
“I shouldn’t have gotten T’d up tonight, but it happens sometimes when you get into the game,” Stover said. “I felt like we were deserving of a few more calls. I don’t know if that kind of turned the tables a little bit, but I think it did. I let those guys know I’m battling for them and they’re battling for me. That’s why we were in this game at the end.”
Trailing 64-46 at the start of the fourth quarter, Galion battled back, cutting the deficit to 69-60 with 4:20 left in the game. A three-pointer by Oswald brought the Tigers to within four points, 75-71, at the 1:33 mark. Galion pulled to within three points four times in the final minute of the game, but Pleasant hit 7-of-8 foul shots during the same span to hang on for the win.
“I give a tremendous amount of credit to Galion’s kids for not giving up,” Pleasant head coach Ben Snively said. “I think we had them down, it might’ve been 25 at one point. And we talked about after the game how in basketball sometimes those things happen. Galion just started playing downhill and kind of reckless because they knew they needed to come back. They made everything they threw up.
“I give our kids credit, too, that they were still able to hang in there. We did enough. Their pressure hurt us a little bit, but we missed free throws and we missed some shots around the basket,” he added. “We didn’t want it to be that exciting, but it did turn into a pretty exciting ballgame.”
The Spartans made 14-of-24 free throws, hitting 11-of-19 in the final period.
While he is pleased with the Tigers on offense, Stover said his ballclub needs to continue to mature and grow on the defensive end.
“Somehow we’ve got to figure out how to get some defensive stops and we’ll be okay,” he said.
Galion (2-8, 1-6 MOAC) will be back in action on Saturday at home against Mount Gilead. The Tigers are then off until Jan. 20 when they play host to Marion Harding.
Pleasant (4-6, 3-3 MOAC) is scheduled to play at Cardington on Saturday.