NELSONVILLE — Blaine Gabriel experienced a range of emotions on Tuesday.
There was the nearly perfect start that saw his Nelsonville-York Buckeyes lead by 18 points.
Then where was a seven-point second quarter that saw the lead shrink to single digits, causing the veteran coach to scowl as he roamed the sidelines.
Then in the end, there was the satisfaction that comes with a victory.
Gabriel picked up his first win as the head coach of the Buckeyes, defeating Southern 51-39 inside Ben Wagner Gymnasium.
The Buckeyes improve to 1-1 on the season after a solid win over the Tornadoes that was spearheaded by a red-hot first quarter.
It was also Gabriel’s first home game at Nelsonville-York, as the Bucks lost the season opener 66-64 to Huntington last Friday as part of the Zane Trace Classic.
Gabriel is the all-time wins leader at Alexander at 132, and he’s back on the bench in the Tri-Valley Conference after six seasons.
“It feels good,” Gabriel said “We played well Friday, we just had too many turnovers in the first quarter. I think we had 10 or 13 in the first quarter, fell behind 16-5.”
That certainly wasn’t the case against Southern (0-2), as the Buckeyes scored the game’s first 13 points and led 20-2 early in the second quarter.
“The kids learned a little bit from that and matured from it,” Gabriel said. “We started out hot. That was a blessing. We were able to control it and do what we wanted to do.”
Nelsonville-York put four players in double figures, led by Ethan Gail. The junior point guard had 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. He made 8 of 10 free throws.
Gail scored 10 points in the final quarter, making six consecutive free throws to help salt the win away.
Sophomore Drew Carter scored 13 points, making three first-half 3-pointers. Senior Mikey Seel had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while senior Austin Thrapp had six points and six rebounds.
“Everybody contributed tonight. I felt real good with it,” Gabriel said.
The Buckeyes had a nearly-perfect start, holding Southern scoreless for the first 6 minutes and 26 seconds of the game. Nelsonville-York didn’t have a turnover until the second quarter, and made 4 of 7 3-point tries in the first quarter alone. Its lead was 20-2 when Gail scored inside to start the second quarter.
The Tornadoes would battle — getting to within seven points in the fourth quarter — but the early deficit proved to be too much to overcome.
“I thought our 1-3-1 (zone) was bothering them a little bit,” Southern coach Jeff Caldwell said. “The difference between them and us was they were coming down and they were working the ball around a little bit and we were either turning it over or shooting a quick 3. We needed to be a lot more patient on the offensive end to get a bucket.
“You just put yourself behind the eight-ball if you can’t go out and take the ball to the hole and get a bucket early in the game. Then you start pressing a little bit.”
Southern shot just 28.5 percent from the field (16 of 56) including 10 percent from 3-point range (2 of 20).
Free throws hurt the Tornadoes too, as they made just 5 of 14.
Southern had one particularly rough stretch in the second quarter, missing seven of eight free throws over the course of 43 seconds.
The Tornadoes would trail just 25-16 at halftime, but it could have been even closer had they made a few more free throws.
“Feel like the kids battled and got us back but geeminy, it’s going to be hard when you get down 20-2 and you’ve only scored two points in a quarter and a half,” Caldwell said. “I thought we had some good looks around the basket, just couldn’t finish. And you have to make foul shots. Have to make people pay when they foul you.”
The second half saw Southern hanging around, but Nelsonville-York seemingly able to always make a play to stop a potential Tornado run.
Seel’s left-corner 3-pointer allowed the Buckeyes to lead 30-18 early in the third. Thrapp made another 3 later in the quarter for a 35-24 edge.
Southern trailed by nine entering the fourth, but Gail opened the final stanza with consecutive baskets for a 39-26 lead.
Southern twice cut the deficit to seven points, the first coming on a fast-break lay-in for Cole Steele on a feed from Trey McNickle that made it 39-32 with 4:05 left.
The final time came when Arrow Drummer scored inside to allow Southern to trail 41-34, still 3:39 left.
Braydin McKee and Seel each followed with 2-point field goals, and Nelsonville-York led 45-34 with under two minutes to go. Gail scored the final six points from the line to clinch the season’s first win.
Steele led Southern with 13 points, collecting seven rebounds. Drummer, a 6-foot-5 junior, battled foul trouble but gave N-Y fits inside with nine points and 12 rebounds. McNickle had eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Their first win of the year in hand, the Buckeyes will get a week off before traveling to Athens for the league opener on Tuesday.
Nelsonville-York was tested against Southern, but made the plays needed to make an early 18-point lead stand up.
“We got some stops,” Gabriel said. “Got the boards. Had the set plays that we wanted to run. Everybody hit a good shot tonight and played pretty well.”
Nelsonville-York 51, Southern 39
Southern 2 14 10 13 — 39
Nelsonville-York 18 7 10 16 — 51
SOUTHERN 39 (0-2)
Cole Steele 6 0-0 13, Landen Hill 2 1-4 5, Trey McNickle 3 1-4 8, Coltin Parker 1 0-0 2, Arrow Drummer 3 3-6 9, Chase Bailey 0 0-0 0, Ryan Laudermilt 1 0-0 2, Cade Anderson 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 5-14 39; 3-point field goals: 2 (Steele, McNickle 1 apiece)
NELSONVILLE-YORK 51 (1-1)
Drew Carter 3 4-4 13, Mikey Seel 4 0-0 10, Braydin McKee 1 0-0 2, Ethan Gail 4 8-10 16, Austin Thrapp 4 0-1 10, Joe Tome 0 0-1 0, Maleek Williams 0 0-2 0, Blayn Spencer 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 12-18 51; 3-point field goals: 7 (Carter 3, Seel, Thrapp 2 apiece)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Southern 16-56 (.285), 3-point field goals 2-20 (.100); Nelsonville-York 16-45 (.355), 3-point field goals 7-22 (.318); Free throws — Southern 5-14 (.357), Nelsonville-York 12-18 (.667); Rebounds — Southern 40 (Drummer 12), Nelsonville-York 34 (Seel 7); Assists — Southern 9 (McNickle 4), Nelsonville-York 10 (Seel 4); Blocks — Southern 0, Nelsonville-York 3; Turnovers — Southern 11, Nelsonville-York 11; Steals — Southern 5 (McNickle 3), Nelsonville-York 5 (Gail 2); Team fouls — Southern 19, Nelsonville-York 15; JV game — Southern 40, Southern 26