STEWART — Quinton Basim has heard all the jokes, all the naysayers.
So now, on this night, when the Lancers had come full circle, you’re damned right he was going to be the first one up that ladder.
Federal Hocking capped the 2019-20 regular season in style on Friday night inside (again fully packed) McInturf Gymnasium with a 77-53 runaway win over South Gallia. The Lancers, 0-23 just three seasons ago, have been reborn as Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division champions.
“It’s just hard to believe,” said Basim, the first Lancer up the ladder to cut down a strand of the net. “ My freshman year we were 0-23.
“To be cutting down the nets with the same boys that had that 0-23 season, it’s just a hard picture to even think about.”
There’s no thinking about it any more. The Lancers (18-4, 15-1 TVC-Hocking) claimed their 13th solo TVC title in program history on another game-night that turned into a celebration.
Federal Hocking has won three in a row overall, but won their final 10 league games to claim the championship over two-time defending champion Trimble.
‘We are the Champions!’ — the staple for these occasions from rock band Queen — blared to decibels unsafe for normal consumption. The Lancers bounced and bobbed, like 5-year olds on a sugar rush, waiting for their turn to cut down a keepsake from the rim. Every one of them wore t-shirts and ball caps commemorating the title, the turnaround, and a season few expected.
The Lancers won 0 games three years ago. But Federal Hocking won just eight games, combined, over the last two seasons. And now they’re the Hocking champs with a record few teams in program history ever reached.
“Pure joy right now,” said Federal Hocking head coach Jonathan Thompson. “I’m proud of these young men. They worked their butts off.
“This was a goal we wanted to try to accomplish this year and they got it done.”
The Lancers got it done, together. With seven seniors on the roster, Thompson started five of them on this night, but that meant three regular starters were left on the bench.
It didn’t matter. South Gallia (12-9, 8-7 TVC) led just once, at 7-4, but Federal Hocking rattled off 11 straight points and never looked back.
Basim led that initial charge. As part of the starting lineup, he opened the game with a steal and a layup. He had eight points and two assists in the game’s first three minutes. Starting alongside fellow seniors Brandon Bond, Terrell Mayle, Ian Miller and Dylan Schwarzel, Basim wasn’t going to let anything spoil the Lancers’ night.
“Having a chance to do it with a group of seniors that I was able to do it with…I took it upon myself to lead them in cutting down these nets,” Basim said.
The Runnin’ Rebels, led by Brayden Hammond (17 points, four steals, four blocks), hung around for a while, and pulled to within 26-23 in the second quarter. But the Lancers erupted for a 14-0 run and blasted into halftime with a 50-28 lead.
Federal Hocking played 12 players in the first half, forced 12 turnovers in the first 16 minutes, and bagged nine 3-pointers in the first two quarters. Offense, and deflections, came from every segment of the roster.
The Lancers’ sense of togetherness had never been stronger.
“We talked and talked about having each others back, building a brotherhood, playing as a team on the floor and they truly have come together,” Thompson said.
“Inside this gym, outside this gym, they got each others back. It’s exactly what we want.”
Basim had 18 points, four assists and five steals to lead Federal Hocking. But Brad Russell, the standout senior center who came off the bench on Friday night, added 18 points and nine rebounds. Hunter Smith added 17 points. Five different players hit 3-pointers, and the Lancers forced 24 turnovers as nine different players came up with at least one steal.
The Lancers played with energy, enthusiasm and effort. And even though the crowd was having a great time, seeing a championship come back to Stewart after years of losing records and dismissal, no one was having as much fun as the players on the floor.
From winless to champions. From the no one showing up for games, to no empty seats in McInturf. The Lancers started out, four seasons ago, as low as you can possibly be. And now, no one is enjoying Friday nights more than they are.
“We sure don’t want this thing to end,” Thompson said. “We’re having a ball.”
Federal Hocking won’t open Division IV Southeast District Tournament play until Feb. 26. The Lancers will have some time to enjoy what they accomplished, and who they accomplished it with.
“It’s a dream come true,” Basim said. “It’s important for people to understand that it’s like, it’s just…I wouldn’t call it a team, I’d call it family.
“It’s nothing but love for our brothers.”
Federal Hocking 77, South Gallia 53
South Gallia 17 11 10 15 — 53
Fed. Hocking 24 26 21 6 — 77
SOUTH GALLIA 53 (12-9, 8-7 TVC-Hocking)
Kyle Northup 1 0-0 2, Jared Burdette 3 0-0 9, Jaxxon Mabe 1 0-0 3, Layne Ours 4 0-0 8, Andrew Small 2 2-2 7, Brayden Hammond 6 4-4 17, Tristen Saber 1 3-3 5, Ean Combs 1 0-2 2, Ethan Beran 0 0-0 0, Devon Siders 0 0-0 0, Blaik Saunders 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 19 9-11 53; 3-point goals — Six (Burdette 3, Small 1, Hammond 1, Mabe 1).
FEDERAL HOCKING 77 (18-4, 15-1 TVC-Hocking)
Lane Smith 0 0-2 0, Hunter Smith 6 2-2 17, Caden Chapman 0 0-0 0, Brandon Bond 0 0-0 0, Cedric Newman 0 0-0 0, Wes Carpenter 0 0-0 0, Terrell Mayle 2 0-0 5, Collin Jarvis 1 0-2 2, Nathaniel Massie 2 0-0 6, Elijah Lucas 1 1-1 3, Quinton Basim 7 0-0 18, Adam Douglas 0 0-0 0, Ian Miller 3 0-0 6, Brad Russell 8 1-1 18, Dylan Schwarzel 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 31 4-8 77; 3-point goals — 11 (Basim 4, H. Smith 3, Massie 2, Mayle 1, Russell 1).
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — South Gallia 19-47 (.405), 3-point goals 6-16 (.375); Federal Hocking 31-62 (.500), 3-point goals 11-25 (.440); Free throws — South Gallia 9-11 (.818); Federal Hocking 4-8 (.500); Rebounds — South Gallia 23 (Mabe 5), Federal Hocking 36 (Russell 9); Assists — South Gallia 12 (Saber 3), Federal Hocking 18 (Basim 4); Steals — South Gallia 10 (Hammond 4), Federal Hocking 16 (Basim 5); Blocks — South Gallia 6 (Hammond 4), Federal Hocking 2; Turnovers — South Gallia 24, Federal Hocking 19; Personal fouls — South Gallia 9, Federal Hocking 10; Technical fouls — South Gallia, none; Federal Hocking, one (Nathaniel Massie, 6:44, 3Q); JV Score — Federal Hocking 39, South Gallia 23