SALINEVILLE -Southern was in the mood for doing favors on Friday.
Rallying from a 13-point first quarter deficit, the Indians blanketed Wellsville with a tight defense to grab a 44-37 victory in an Inter-Tri County League lower tier showdown.
"We don't like McDonald, but we did them a favor," Southern forward Kyler Woodward said.
Or so they thought.
ITCL lower tier leaders McDonald ended up losing 66-64 at Lowellville for its first league loss of the season on Friday. Wellsville (11-3, 7-2) could have pulled even with the Devils with five games to place in the league race.
Instead the Tigers went away feeling they have blown their league title chances altogether since no one relayed the message that the Devils had lost as well.
"This was the league right here," Thompson said. "We're done. Nobody else is going to beat (McDonald). I don't see it happening."
The game didn't start out like it was the potential end of Wellsville's league title hopes. The Tigers raced out to a 13-point advantage in the first quarter and forced the Indians into 11 turnovers in the frame.
Then it started to come apart.
"They got the big head," Thompson said. "We quit running our offense. Whoever ran across half court first was taking the shot."
Southern cut the deficit to three by the half and went ahead for the first time with 3:59 in the third quarter on a bucket by J.J. Napierkowski.
"We had nothing going early," Napierkowski said. "But we chipped away. All five guys on the floor played their hearts out. Everybody chipped in."
Napierkowski perhaps played the biggest role as he led the offense with 17 points. He also had eight rebounds and six steals.
Even with Southern's third quarter push, Wellsville was able to find its way back into a more comfortable position as Nate Scott hit a three at the buzzer to end the third and a two to begin the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 35-28 lead.
"I knew we would be fine," Napierkowski said. "We kept our heads up and showed a lot of composure."
What was happening on the floor wasn't the only matter of adversity the Indians (9-5, 5-4) had to deal with.
Woodward said he had issues with contacts and had to go to the doctor earlier this week to see why his eyes were bothering him. He said the contacts were putting too much stress on his eyes, so he has not been able to wear them for a few days.
"He kept missing easy shots early," Southern coach George Whittaker said. "But he kept after it and played hard. If he would have had his contacts he would probably have about 10 more points."
Woodward, who had 10 points and 15 rebounds, injected a lot of energy into the team as he helped limit the Tigers to one shot just about every time down the floor in the fourth quarter.
He felt he had to make up for his first quarter blunders which contributed a lot to the hefty amount of turnovers.
"I knew if I didn't get started soon, the offense was going to slow up," Woodward said.
The win had a little cherry on top for Woodward because he lives in Wellsville part time with his father.
"It's always nice to beat them," Woodward said.
Southern grabbed the lead for good with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter on a fast break bucket from Napierkowski.
Wellsville's next points came with 51 seconds to go to cut the lead to two, but it was too late.
"We played good tough defense and bodied them up," Whittaker said. "We out hustled them."
The 37 points were the lowest offensive output of the season for the Tigers.
"We usually average that at halftime," Thompson said.
Scott led the Tigers with 16 points and seven rebounds. Camden Douglas added 12 points and six assists.
Wellsville hosts Beaver Local on Tuesday. Southern hosts Toronto on Tuesday.
WELLSVILLE: 16- 4-13- 4-37
WELLSVILLE SCORING: Camden Douglas 5-0-12, Nate Scott 7-0-16, Seth Bradford 2-0-4, Brendon Carr 0-0-0, Jordan Sloan 2-1-5, Sam McIntosh 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 16-50, 1-2: 37.
SOUTHERN SCORING: M.J. Williams 1-0-2, J.J. Napierkowski 8-1-17, Dylan Ketchum 2-2-6, Jared Shilot 1-3-5, Luke Griffith 1-1-4, Kyler Woodward 4-2-10. TEAM TOTALS: 17-40, 9-23: 44.
Three-point goals: Wellsville 4 (Douglas 2, Scott 2), Southern 1 (Griffith).