Prep boys basketball: Jackets fall to Titans

WILLIAMSTOWN – Austin Ratliff’s three-point play with under a minute to play propelled the Gilmer County Titans to a 45-42 victory over the host Willamstown Yellowjackets Tuesday evening in a Little Kanawa Conference battle.

Ratliff intercepted a Yellowjacket pass and drove strong to the hoop, scoring the go-ahead basket while drawing a foul in the process.

The Titans led for the majority of the contest, but never managed to pull away from a very young Williamstown team.

“It seems like our games come down to the end every time we play Williamstown,” said Gilmer County head coach Steve Shuff. “We had opportunities to pull away early but I was really proud of our kids down the stretch.”

Williamstown played once again without the services of injured sophomore standout Gage Wix and Gilmer County took full advantage to grab an early 9-0 lead.

Freshman Landon Travis got the Jackets on the board and Chandler Weber followed with a three-point shot to cut the Titan lead to 9-5.

Dakota Watson’s inside score brought the Jackets to within a pair, before Gilmer County all-state forward Anthony Aviles scored his third field goal of the opening quarter to make it 11-7.

Each time the Titans would begin to put some distance between themselves and the youthful Yellowjackets, Williamstown would answer with a run of its own.

Gilmer put together a mini 6-0 run in the second quarter to pull ahead by eight, but back-to-back treys from Weber and an inside score by Josh Debolt knotted the game at 19-19.

After both teams traded buckets, Aviles closed the half with a driving score to send Gilmer County to intermission clinging to a two-point lead at 23-21.

“I was happy with the way we came back after the bad start,” said ninth-year Williamstown head coach Scott Sauro. “The way we kept coming back I thought showed some character.”

That character would be put to a quick test in the second half as the Titans spotted Williamstown a game-tying basket before erupting for an 11-0 run that put them in front by a 34-23 margin and on the verge of blowing out the Jackets on their home floor.

Once again the Yellowjackets had the answer as they promptly reeled off a 13-5 run the rest of the quarter to close to within three points heading to the final period.

Three-pointers by Watson and Jarric Hoskins and an old fashioned three-point play by point guard Hunter Neely were key plays in the Williamstown rally.

Williamstown pulled even again to start the fourth when Hoskins scored a three-point play of his own as the senior scored on a driving bucket with the left hand.

After Nathan Allison put the Titans back in front by connecting on one-of-two free throw attempts, Hoskins drilled a long three-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets their first and only lead of the game at 42-40.

After Ratliff missed an opportunity to reclaim the lead for Gilmer by missing a pair of shots from the charity stripe, the sophomore made up for it with his steal and resulting game winning three-point play.

Aviles followed with a pair of free throws to push the lead to three, giving the Yellowjackets one last chance to send the game to overtime, but Neely’s shot from behind the arc was strong and Gilmer County came away with the rebound and the road victory.

Aviles paced the Titans with a game high 20 points, while Hoskins, Weber, and Travis led the ‘Jackets in scoring with 11, 10, and 9 points, respectively.

Though pleased with the effort put forth by his kids, Sauro made no excuses for the loss.

“They (Gilmer County) made plays to close out the game and we didn’t, it’s just that simple.” said Sauro. “When the game was on the line, they made one more play than we did.”

The victory improved the Titans’ season mark to 5-3 and 3-2 in conference play, while Williamstown fell to 3-6 and 2-3 in the LKC with the setback.

Next up for the Yellow Jackets is another home game Friday night against Parkersburg Catholic.