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On home floor, Lady Indians move to Classic title game

Peebles’ Jessica Sowards is fouled on this drive to the basket during action from Wednesday night’s varsity girls semi-final game of the McDonald’s Classic. Sowards sank 8 of 10 free throws and hit a trio of three-point shots on her way to a game-high 27 points in a 58-26 Peebles victory.

Peebles routs Manchester in semis 58-26 –

Mark Carpenter –

The last time the Peebles Lady Indians were crowned champions of the McDonald’s Classic was in 2013 when they were coached by Vohn Hoop.  Hoop was back at Peebles High School on Wednesday night, but on the opposite bench as he now leads the Manchester Lady Greyhounds and he and his Lady Hounds faced a Classic semi-finals match up with the Lady Indians, who are now coached by Billie Jo Justice, who herself has a pair of Classic titles, one in 1999 as the coach of the North Adams Lady Devils and another in 2005 as the head coach at Peebles.  With all that head coaching intrigue surrounding Hoop’s return to Peebles after a very successful stint with the Lady Indians, the two teams took the court in a contest that ended up quite one-sided.
It was Justice and her Lady Indians who ruled the night, allowing the lady Hounds just four points in the second and third quarters combined, and rising the hot hand of senior Jessica Sowards to an easy 58-26 victory and a trip to the Dec. 30 Classic championship game.
“Our girls are learning how to have some patience offensively, not just putting their heads down and going,” said Coach Justice in a post game radio interview.  “They are starting to look to pass the ball through presses a little more and that is what we have been preaching to them.  Our kids work well together and practice well together, playing very unselfishly.  They don’t care which player we are going to, they are just happy to win.”
“Coming back off Christmas is tough sometimes so we did a lot of shooting and just running the floor a little bit.  I was pretty confident in any of our girls on the perimeter tonight.”

All eyes are on the rim as Manchester’s Darrington White, center, is surrounded by Peebles defenders Baylee Justice, left, and Jerilin Toller, right. White led the Lady Hounds with 8 points but it was the girls from Peebles who claimed the 58-26 McDonald’s Classic win.

There was never much doubt as to the outcome of this semi-final tilt as the Lady Indians scored the first basket of the game on a McKinlee Ryan three-pointer and never trailed after that.  The second Peebles possession resulted in a Jerilin Toller basket before the Lady Hounds got on the board at the 5:50 mark of the first period on a basket by Darrington White.  After the White bucket, it was all Peebles for the next two minutes as the host team went on an 11-0 run, mostly from long distance as they got back to back threes from Sowards and another from Ryan to take a commanding 16-2 advantage.
The Lady Hounds recovered from that barrage to finish the first quarter on a 6-1 run and when C.J. Hobbs scored at the buzzer, the blue and gold had hope, as they had pulled back to within 17-8.
Unfortunately for the visitors, that nine-point deficit was the smallest one they would face for the rest of the night as their offense went south and they only managed a single point in the second stanza, a free throw by McKenzie Smith at the 4:04 mark.  Meanwhile, the Lady Indians began to pour it on, again getting a Ryan trey on their first possession and then another Sowards long bomb late in the half.  In all, Peebles outscored the Lady Hounds 12-1 in the second quarter to head to the half with a big 29-9 lead.
After the break, things didn’t improve much for the Manchester squad, but at least they tripled their scoring output of the previous quarter, managing just a meager three points in the third frame on a steal and layup by Hobbs and a free throw by White.  Again, the Lady Indians were scoring at a much faster rate, getting a three-pointer from Matti Michols and and old-fashioned three-point play from Tatum Arey to move in front 43-12 with just eight minutes of action remaining.

Manchester ball handlers were harassed all evening by Peebles dfenders as here the Lady Hounds’ Josie Campbell attempts to pass out of the post as two Peebles defenders close in.

For the Lady Hounds, the fourth quarter showed sparks of life as they scored more in that span than they had in the entire first three quarters combined, putting up 14.  Manchester scored on their first three possessions of the final period, getting a three from White, a bucket from Raeanna Stamm, and then a stick back by White, but the Lady Indians were matching that performance with scores on their first three trips, all by Sowards, who was on her way to a 27-point evening.
Late in the fourth quarter, the home team got a bucket by Arey and Ryan’s fourth three-pointer of the night to lead 58-23, and a three with 30 seconds left by Manchester’s Smith accounted for the final score of 58-26.
It was a big night for the senior Sowards as she led all scorers with 27, including a trio of three-pointers and an 8 for 10 night at the foul line.  McKinlee Ryan also hit double figures with 12 points, all of her scoring coming from beyond the arc.  Matti Nichols and Tatum Arey each added 7 points as the Lady Indians improved to 7-3 on the year and 3-3 in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference as Wednesdays’ game also counted as part of conference play.
The Lady Hounds fell to 1-9 on the season, 0-6 in the SHAC, and were led by 8 points from sophomore Darrington White and 6 from junior C.J. Hobbs.
Peebles moves on to the McDonald’s Classic championship game, facing the North Adams Lady Devils on Friday, Dec. 30 at 6 p.m.  The two rivals have not yet met in the 2016-17 season.
“We know they are going to press us a lot and that has been one of our weaknesses so far,” added Justice.  “It may be determined by how well we handle the basketball against their pressure..  North Adams is really deep and we don’t have that luxury right now.”
Manchester moved into the Thursday night consolation contest against the West Union Lady Dragons and it will also be the first meeting of the year between those county squads.

Manchester  8  1  3  14  –26
Peebles  17  12  14  15  –58

Manchester (26): White 3 1-2 8, Smith 1 1-2 4, Friend 1 0-0 2, Hobbs 3 0-0 6, Lucas 1 0-0 2, Stamm 2 0-0 4, Team 11 2-4 26.
Peebles (58): Sowards 8 8-10 27, Ryan 4 0-0 12, Nichols 3 0-0 7, Arey 3 1-2 7, Toller 1 3-4 5, Team 19 12-16  58.
Three-Point Goals:
Manchester (2); White 1, Smith 1
Peebles (8): Sowards 3, Ryan 4, Nichols 1

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