Lovely scores 39 as Pointers win first district title since 1990

Published 1:57 am Monday, March 6, 2023

South Point Pointers’ head coach Travis Wise holds the net signifying the team’s winning the Division 3 district championship on Sunday. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


South Point Pointers’ Caleb Lovely lays in two of his 39 points in a 64-57 win over Zane Trace on Sunday in the Division 3 district championship game. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


South Point’s Jordan Ermalovich (left) steals the ball from a Zane Trace player during Sunday’s Division 3 district championship. The Pointers won 64-57 to win the district title for the first time since 1990. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


South Point’s Xathan Haney (10) hits a 3-pointer in a 64-57 win over Zane Trace in the Division 3 district title game. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


South Point Pointers’ Xander Dornon lays in two points to help beat Zane Trace 64-57 on Sunday in the Division 3 district championship. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photo for The Ironton Tribune)


South Point fans cheer on the Pointers who beat Zane Trace 64-57 on Sunday at the Ohio University Convocation Center in the Division 3 district championship game. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photos for The Ironton Tribune)

By Jim Walker

ATHENS — Caleb Lovely might as well have been wearing a saddle. He needed something to help him since he put the South Point team on his back.

Lovely scored 39 points, grabbed 8 rebounds to go with a couple of assists and steals to lead the South Point Pointers to a 64-57 win over the Zane Trace Pioneers to win the Division 3 district championship Sunday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.

“I wanted the ball on every possession. When I had the ball, we went down and scored. When they close it out on me, it gets other people open,” said Lovely who was all smiles as the Pointers advanced to the regional tournament.

“It’s been good. We got put out last year by Fairland and we beat them last game. It’s been good. It feels good.”

Pointers’ head coach Travis Wise said Lovely’s performance was key for his team.

“For him to step up like that is big for us,” Wise said. “He wants the ball in that situation. He stepped up a lot. Jordan didn’t score a lot but he guarded, he handled the ball, The second half we made that adjustment and put Jordan on (Ream) and he didn’t do much the second half.

“I think our pace kind of got them a little tired in the second half. We kept trying to push the ball, push the ball. It looked like they got a little tired at the end.”

The district title was the first for the Pointers since 1990 and only the second in school history.

The district title had a personal touch for Pointers’ head coach Travis Wise as he remembered his brother Terry who was a member of the 1990 team and died in December of 2021.

“This one means a lot to me because my brother (Terry) was on that ’90 team, so it’s something up there to be remembered,” said Wise.

But Wise was more concerned with what the district title meant to his team.

“It’s been 33 years. We met our first goal as OVC champs, sectional champs and now district champs. That’s our goals coming into the season,” said Wise.

“It’s something off my shoulders. We’ve been here a couple of times and came up short a couple of times. It feels really, really good. It’s a good group of kids. They just battled tonight. The kids found a way to win and we’re going to move on.”

Setting a school record for wins in a season, South Point (21-4) moves on to the regional semi-finals at 8 p.m. Wednesday against North Adams at the Ohio University Convocation Center. North Adams held off Minford 54-46 in an earlier game on Sunday.

The three key factors in the Pointers win was Lovely’s scoring outburst, Jordan Ermalovich’s defensive effort and clutch foul shooting in the fourth quarter.

Zane Trace’s Xzander Ream scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Pioneers took a 13-12 lead and he added a 3-pointer in the second quarter. But Ermalovich took over playing defense on Ream in the second half and held the Pioneers’ leading scorer to just 6 points in the second half.

“I wasn’t supposed to leave him or help (teammates). The offense runs through him, so take the ball away from him and they struggle like they did in the second half and that’s kind of how we won. And we got the ball out in transition and got the ball to Caleb,” said Ermalovich.

“We had some people on the bench step up like Jackson (Childers) and Josh (Childers) and obviously Caleb did his thing. It was just a team effort. We did good.”

Landen Jarrell his a 3-pointer just before the buzzer that put Zane Trace up 24-21 at the half. Lovely scored 14 of South Point’s total.

But with Ream limited to just 2 points in the third quarter, the Pointers outscored the Pioneers 18-9 to take a 39-33 lead.

Austen Ison made a layup tand Nalin Robinson got back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 39 with 6:25 to play.

But Lovely sank a pair free throws and then came up with a steal he converted into a layup to make it 45-41 lead with 4:45 to go as the Pointers took the lead for good.

Dornon made a layup that gave the Pointers their biggest lead of the game at 60-49 only to have the Pioneers get a 3-pointer from Jarrell and Ream made 2-out-3 foul shots to trail 60-54 with 38 seconds left.

Lovely and Dornon each went 2-for-2 at the line over the final 36 seconds to seal the win. Lovely was 5-of-6 at the foul line and Dornon was 6-of-8.

“It’s stressful, especially where this is not our normal gym where I can see everything behind the backboard. I’m stressed out of my mind. I’m very grateful I put in six of them,” said Dornon.

“It’s exhilarating (to win the district). On Wednesday we’re going to work hard to win then and then play on Saturday and if we win there, it’s school history. We’ve got to keep going.”

Wise said Lovely and Dornon’s foul shooting in the fourth quarter is something teams must get in order to win in the tournament. Zane Trace was just 7-of-18 from the line.

“Free throws as this level, you’ve got to make them because if you get up six or eight late, they’re going to foul. They’ve got to keep their possessions alive. So, they’re going to go 3-for-2 or a basket for a couple free throws. If you miss one, you’re in a ball game. We were fortunate enough we got to shoot at Marshall a couple of days before hand for that depth perception. It looks like it paid off,” said Wise.

“Xander Dornon came in and hadn’t done too much in the game (offensively) and went 6-for-8. We use Xander when we start the open post. He has to pull that big out and he can handle the ball. He gets some fouls and he steps up and makes them.”

Besides Lovely with 39 points, Dornon added 10 points.

Ream scored 19, Nalin Robinson 12 and Landen Jarrell 11 for the Pioneers (21-4).

Zane Trace    13 11 9 24 = 57

South Point 12 9 18 25 = 64

ZANE TRACE (21-4): Landon Robinson 3 0 1-1 7, Brock Jarrell 0 1 0-0 3, Nalin Robinson 4 0 4-5 12, Xzander Ream 4 3 2-4 19, Kyle Stonerock 0 0 0-6 0, Landen Jarrell 2 2 1-2 11, Austen Ison 2 0 1-2 5. Totals: 21-43 9-21 57. 3-pt goals: 6-17. Rebounds: 7-O, 23-D = 30 (L. Robinson 6, Ream 5, Stonerock 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 4. Assists: 8 (L. Robinson 4). Steals: 2. Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: N. Robinson (1:16 4th).

SOUTH POINT (21-4): Caleb Lovely 12 2 9-11 39, Carter Smith 1 0 0-0 2, Jaxon Vance 1 0 0-0 2, Jordan Ermalovich 2 0 0-0 4, Xander Dornon 2 0 6-8 10, Xathan Haney 0 1 0-0 3, Jackson Childers 0 0 2-2 2, Elijah Wilburn 0 0 0-0 0, Josh Childers 1 0 0-0 2, Brayden Hanshaw 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-49 17-21 64. 3-pt goals: 3-13. Rebounds: 5-O, 21-D = 26 (Lovely 8, Ermalovich 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 4. Assists: 8 (Ermalovich 3, Lovely 2). Steals: 8 (Lovely 3, Ermalovich 2). Turnovers: 7. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: None.