WELLSTON – Playing their third straight game in four days, the Wellston Golden Rockets fell in Monday’s semifinal game against Meigs 62-51 in the Division III sectional tournament.

Wellston (9-8) held its own in the first quarter, trailing by only four. But a 10-2 blitz in the second by Meigs (5-7), gave the Marauders enough of a cushion to keep the Rockets at a distance.

“We missed too many shots in the first half,” said Wellston head coach Robert Fouty. “We missed shots around the basket, and we missed some open threes. We just didn’t connect early on, and they (Meigs) killed us on the offense glass.

“We tried to throw different defenses at them, and we would do a good job of taking away the shot initially, but they would grab the offensive rebound and score. It kept us out of the zone, which we used last time we played them here to contain them.”

Meigs opened the game strong, taking an early 7-3 lead in the first quarter. Braylon Harrison hit a three to begin the scoring for the Marauders, and Coulter Cleland added two straight baskets, before Hunter Smith and Cyan Ervin combined to score back-to-back buckets to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:51 left.

The Marauders then closed with a 7-3 run, as Cleland converted a traditional three-point play, while he and Andrew Dodson scored back-to-back baskets to establish a 14-10 lead.

After Ervin scored to open the second quarter for Wellston, Cleland added eight points, and Dodson had two, as the Marauders shot 50 percent during the period to take a 24-12 lead at halftime.

Wellston attempted to claw its way back in the second half, shooting 53.5 percent during the final 16 minutes. Ervin hit four three-pointers, including three in the fourth, while Gunnar Harmon, Eston Riley, and Evan Brown each hit one, and the Rockets forced nine turnovers, including four in the fourth quarter.

However, Meigs shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the second half, and converted 13 of 22 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to hold off the Rockets for the win.

“It was a physical game tonight,” said Fouty. “We didn’t match their level until later in the game, but Meigs played a great game, and Cleland played a terrific game. However, I am proud of our kids for how hard they battled. They didn’t give up.”

Cleland led the Marauders in scoring with 35 points on 12 of 17 shooting. It didn’t matter how the Rockets defended him, Cleland was simply unconscious on offense.

“We played under to take the drive away, we blitzed him, we played zone and we double-teamed him at half court. “We threw about everything we could at him, but we couldn’t stop him,” said Fouty.

Also, Dodson finished in double-figures for the Marauders, as he added 13 points and nine rebounds, while Wyatt Hoover had six.

Wellston, which shot 42.6 percent (20 of 47) for the game, was led by Ervin with 19 points, while Hunter Smith and Evan Brown finished with nine points each. Smith also turned away three shots and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds to go along with three assists and one steal.

The Rockets outscored Meigs 9-0 in bench points, as Riley added five points and Garrett Brown had four points. In addition, Harmon contributed with three points, and R.J. Kemp had two in the loss.

Wellston has three regular-season contests remaining, as they will host Nelsonville-York in a TVC-Ohio Division makeup game on Tuesday, with senior night activities being observed. It will be the final home game for five seniors, including Chase Ingalls, Jarrod Wilbur, Riley, Kemp, and Smith.

“In the locker room we shifted the focus to our senior night on Tuesday,” Fouty said. “They get to come back here and get redemption and leave here with a win. They all have worked so hard, and we want to be able to get them to double-digits in wins and try to win out.”

Then the Rockets will play a doubleheader on Saturday, as they travel to Meigs for a matchup at noon, before heading to Athens for a 6 p.m. contest.

With the win on Monday, Meigs will now take on No. 4 seed Adena in the sectional championship game on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.