Low scoring, slow-paced, use the clock, play solid defense. That’s been the theme this season for Coach Vohn Hoop and his Peebles Lady Indians and it worked to perfection on Tuesday night in the semi-finals of the 2015 McDonald’s Classic. On the floor at North Adams High School, the Lady Indians faced off with the West Union Lady Dragons, a team they already had one win over earlier in the year. The Peebles method held the Lady Dragons to just two first-half points and though West Union outscored the Indians in the second half, it was the Peebles girls advancing to the Classic Finals with a 31-20 victory.
“It’s tough to beat a team twice and West Union is a nice ball club,” said Coach Hoop in his post game radio interview. “It feels good to get the win. We kind of switched our zone around according to what they did offensively and it gave them some problems. We don’t score the ball well so we have to keep the score low.”
“We’ve had pretty good starting pitching because some of our scores look like baseball scores. The kids really look forward to this tournament and getting to play in front of the big crowds.”
As expected, the game’s pace was slow from the beginning, with the Lady Indians throwing different variations of their patented 2-3 zone at West Union, forcing the Lady Dragons into turnovers and giving them no good looks at the basket. Neither team scored for the first 2:45 until the ice was broken on an inside score from Peebles’ McKenzie Swango. It took over three minutes before anyone scored again and again it was Swango inside to give Peebles a 4-0 advantage.
The Lady Indians then got a Jessica Sowards free throw, a floater in the lane for two from Baylee Justice, and another Sowards free throw to go up 8-0. West Union finally got on the board with 16 seconds left in the first quarter on a drive through the lane by Kaylee Welch, but those were to be the last Lady Dragons’ points for nearly nine minutes, as the Peebles defense continued to frustrate the West Union offense.
The second quarter was all Peebles as they pitched a shutout on defense, though not exactly setting the world on fire on offense for the first half of the period. Sowards put back in her own miss at the 5:31 mark to make it 10-2 and a free throw by Jerilin Toller upped the lead to 11-2. It was nearly four minutes before Peebles scored again bu they did it in a big way, getting three-pointers on back to back possessions from Justice and Sowards to take what certainly seemed to be a commanding 17-2 lead into halftime.
In the first half of the third quarter, the Lady Dragons fared a bit better, with their first score since the first quarter coming on their first possession, a basket by Kristen Grooms. Peebles answered with another Justice trey but West Union got back to back baskets from Mikayla Akers and Jaycee Baldwin to pull back to within 20-8.
Those hopes of a comeback were short-lived for the Lady Dragons as the Lady Indians responded with a 7-0 run to end the third period. Two free throws from Swango, baskets by Kaitlin Toller and McKinlee Ryan, plus a Ryan free throw put Peebles in front 27-8 headed to the final eight minutes.
After being held scoreless for three quarters, freshman Alexa Pennington came to life early in the fourth, opening the stanza with her first two buckets of the night. After a pair of Sowards free throws, the Lady Dragons went on a 6-0 run, that included a long Pennington three-point shot, but that only cut the gap to 29-18 with just over two minutes to play.
Time would run out on the Lady Dragons as Justice hit two free throws with 1:11 to go and the Lady Dragons just couldn’t get anything to fall until a Grooms steal and layup with 17 seconds left closed out the scoring, with the Lady Indians hanging on for the 31-20 win, their fourth of the 2015-16 season. The game also counted in the standings for the Southern Hills Athletic Conference.
With the low-scoring game, only one player reached double figures for either team and that was Peebles’ Baylee Justice who scored 10 points. Jessica Sowards scored 9 for the winners,with McKenzie Swango adding 6.
West Union was led by Alexa Pennington’s 9 points, all of those coming in the final quarter.
The Lady Dragons actually matched the number of field goals by Peebles, but the Lady Indians hit 10 of 15 free throws, while West Union went 0-6 from the stripe.
The Lady Indians now move to the Dec. 30 title game of the McDonald’s Classic, where they will face off with the winner of the North Adams-Manchester game, which was played on Dec. 23. (No result of the game was available at press time.) Tip off for the Dec. 30 championship game is set for 6 p.m.
The Lady Dragons drop to the Classic’s consolation game, where they will face the loser of the above mentioned North Adams-Manchester clash, with tip off set for 6 p.m. on Dec. 29.
WUHS 2 0 6 12 —20
PHS 8 9 10 4 —31
WUHS (20): Baldwin 1 1-2 3, Akers 1 0-2 2, Grooms 2 0-0 4, Welch 1 0-0 2, Pennington 4 0-0 9, Team 9 0-6 20.
PHS (31): J. Toller 0 1-2 1, K. Toller 1 0-0 2, Sowards 2 4-7 9, Justice 3 2-2 10, Ryan 1 1-2 3, Swango 2 2-2 6, Team 9 10-15 31.
WUHS- Pennington 1
PHS- Sowards 1, Justice 2