Every game in the county had importance last Friday night, and none more than a much anticipated battle in Peebles between the Indians and the visiting Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs. With an overflow in the parking lot and the gymnasium, the two teams met in a rematch of a a Jan. 26 match up in Lynchburg that the Mustangs won in overtime. Now, the two teams met with something big on the line, the big school championship of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. A Peebles win would have catapulted the Indians into a first place tie with the Mustangs while a win by the visitors meant an outright title for them.
With that much on the line, the two teams put on a show for the capacity crowd, with the game following much the same script as their earlier meeting. A close game from start to finish, this one was again decided by the Mustangs making plays down the stretch, enough to come from behind and hold off the Indians to clinch the SHAC title with a 57-51 win.
“These two groups have been battling each other since junior high,” Lynchburg head coach Matt Carson told C103 radio after the game. “This was just a great high school basketball game with both teams playing extremely hard all the way.”
“We executed much better in the second half and our kids are just grinders, gritty and tough. This game was so much a carbon copy of our previous game but it certainly was a great tournament preparation game for us.”
In the opening period Friday night, it seemed that most of the shots from both sides were coming from the packed parking lot, as three-pointers rained down on both sides. The Indians got the early jump, getting threes from Tucker Schmitz, Ethan Parrett, and Tanner Arey to go up 11-5 and force Coach Carson to use a timeout. A Jase Conley trey put Peebles up 14-7 before the Mustangs rallied with a three-pointer by Eric McLaughlin and a late bucket by Devin Pierson to trail just 16-14 after one quarter.
The Indians kept their lead throughout the second period, getting three baskets from junior Camron Gordley to stay on top. The third of those scores made it 24-20 Peebles and a later score by Scout Kremin kept the lead at four. The final basket of the half came from Lynchburg’s Pierson after an Indians turnover and sent the two teams to the break with the home team still in front, 29-26.
To begin the third quarter, a very patient first offensive possession by Peebles ended in a basket by Tyler Ryan and a Ryan assist the next time down resulted in a Gordley score and the hometown faithful were whipped into a frenzy as their team opened up a 33-26 advantage. The experienced Mustangs held their composure, though, and began to chop into the Peebles lead, getting a big dunk from River Mullins that sliced the gap down to just 38-36.
Another Schmitz three put Peebles up five but two free throws and then a buzzer-beater by Zach Blankenship pulled the Mustangs to within 41-40 as the third quarter ended.
A sure-to-be thrilling final period with everything on the line began with Peebles getting a nice reverse layup from Gordley on their first possession. The Mustangs then got another pair of free throws from Blankenship and a basket by Pierson to take their first lead of the night, 44-43 with 6:03 left to play.
Gordley put the Indians right back on top and the two sides went blow for blow until a three-pointer by Pierson put Lynchburg on top 50-47 with 2:42 remaining on the clock. Parrett scored to bring Peebles back to within one and then moments later, a pair from the foul line by Arey tied the game at 51 with 1:42 to go, but that was to be the final time that the home team lit up the scoreboard.
A Peebles turnover resulted in a Blankenship basket that gave the Mustangs the lead for good. The Indians called a timeout and after the break, turned the ball over yet again, and the ensuing play resulted in an intentional foul being whistled on Gordley. Lynchburg’s Joe Giordano hit one of two from the stripe, but the Mustangs still retained possession after the intentional call. Mullins was fouled, but missed two free throws, giving the Indians the chance to tie with a three-point goal.
Peebles got the shot, a three attempt by Arey, but it was off target and Blankenship was fouled with 13.2 seconds left and nailed both shots from the line to make it 56-51. A free throw by Giordano with 7 seconds left was the final point of the night, as the Mustangs could celebrate their first SHAC championship since 2004 with the 57-51 win.
The win improved the Mustangs to 19-2 on the season, and 12-1 in the SHAC, winning the big school title by two games over Peebles. Lynchburg was led in scoring by Zach Blankenship’s 15 points, with Devin Pierson adding 14, Eric McLaughlin 9 and Joe Giordano 8.
For Peebles, 15-6 overall and 9-3 in the SHAC, Camron Gordley led the way with 14 points, with Tanner Arey adding 10, Ethan Parrett 9, and Tucker Schmitz 8. By virtue of the North Adams win over Eastern on Friday, the Indians stayed in sole possession of second place in the big school standings.
The Indians have one regular season make-up game to be played and they will look for their 10th SHAC win when they travel to Ripley on Feb. 17 to face the Blue Jays. Then it is postseason time as the Peebles boys move into the sectional tournament on Feb. 23 in Division IV as they will face Portsmouth Clay in a tough opening round match up with a sectional title and a return trip to the Ohio University Convocation Center up for grabs. The Feb. 23 tip off is set for 8 p.m.
LCHS 14 12 14 17 —57
PHS 16 13 12 10 —51
LCHS (57): Pierson 14, McLaughlin 9, Blankenship 15, Mullins 4, Giordano 8, Ahrmann 3, Inman 4
PHS (51): Arey 10, Gordley 14, Kremin 4, Ryan 3, Schmitz 8, Parrett 9, Conley 3
LCHS- Blankenship 1, McLaughlin 1, Pierson 1
PHS- Schmitz 2, Parrett 1, Arey 1, Conley 1