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Piketon size is too much for Lady Indians, Peebles falls in sectional finals

In the final game of her high school career, Peebles senior Jessica Sowards hauls in an offensive rebound in the first quarter of last Saturday’s sectional final game. Weakened by an illness that had kept her out of practice, Sowards scored just a single point as the Lady Indians fell to Piketon 51-33.

Lady Red Streaks control throughout in 51-33 victory –

Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –

It was not the ending that Coach Billie Jo Justice and her Peebles lady Indians hoped for, but unless you are the final team standing n March, it is never the ending that a team wants.  For the Lady Indians, the end of their 2016-17 season came far too abruptly on Saturday, Feb. 18 in the Southeast District Division III sectional championship game, played at Valley High School.
Peebles faced off with the Piketon Lady Red Streaks, and the size inside of the Piketon girls was too much for the Lady Indians to handle as the lady Red Streaks continually pounded the ball inside to their twin towers, seniors Kara Blanton and Summer Travis, and no matter how many Peebles defenders swarmed around, it didn’t seem to matter.  The Piketon pair combined for 26 points as the Lady Red Streaks captured the sectional crown with a 51-33 victory.
“They are just a really big team all around and their two girls inside definitely hurt us today,” said Coach Justice in her radio interview after the loss.  “We just weren’t strong enough to move them off the blocks, and their defense was very aggressive and we hard a hard time handling it.”
“We like to have time to get set and shoot threes and we just didn’t get that today.  We had a good season with 14 wins and I told the girls they certainly didn’t have anything to hang their heads over.  We have improved and everything that we have worked to get better at, we’ve slowly gotten better at.”
It didn’t take long in this contest to figure out the Piketon strategy as they went inside to Travis for their first two baskets, taking a 4-0 lead that would last them from wire to wire.  A jumper by Matti Nichols got the Lady Indians on the board, but the Lady Red Streaks continued to control the glass on both ends, and a three-pointer by Grace Lightle gave them an 11-4 advantage halfway through the first frame.
With 27 seconds left in the first period, a basket by Peebles’ Jerilin Toller left the Lady Indians trailing 13-6 after eight minutes of play.
Early in the second quarter, the Lady Indians got back to back baskets from Toller and Tatum Arey to close the gap to 15-10 and it looked like some momentum might be shifting their way, but that idea quickly dissipated when the Lady Red Streaks held them scoreless for four minutes and then scored the last eight points of the first half, getting three-pointers from Avery Reuter and Kaylee Courtright to take a 26-12 advantage to the intermission.
The Lady Indians began the third quarter with a Toller free throw and a Baylee Justice basket, but the Piketon girls again had an answer, scoring on a stick back by Travis and then holding an ice-cold Peebles offense to a single point over the next six minutes.  The Lady Indians got a late three-pointer from Toller, but a basket by Reuter at the buzzer sent the sectional final into its final eight minutes with Piketon holding a comfortable 38-19 advantage.

This was the issue the entire game on Saturday for the Peebles Lady Indians, the inside size of the Piketon team was more than Peebles could handle as the Lady Red Streaks rolled to a 51-33 win in a Division III sectional title game.

In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lady Indians got two baskets from McKinlee Ryan and one from Christian Reed, but that put just a small dent in the Piketon lead.  A 6-0 run gave the Lady Red Streaks a 50-27 lead, and the Lady Indians then scored six straight that included a Justice three and then a free throw that turned out to be the final point of the outstanding career of senior Jessica Sowards.
Sowards, who earlier this season joined the exclusive 1,000 point club at Peebles, had missed practice all week with the illness that has creeped over the entire county, and with that struggled in her final game on Saturday, but that did nothing to diminish her four years of contributions to the Peebles girls’ program.
The 51-33 defeat ended the season for Peebles with a 14-8 record, and though disappointed by the result, Coach Justice is quite excited about what the future holds for her young team.
“We’ve got everybody back, except for Jessica and that is losing a lot,” said Coach Justice.  “They are a great group of kids and they will work hard over the summer.  They will continue to learn and learn.”
“Jessica is a great kid and she had a tough week being sick as did some other girls and it’s hard to prepare for a tournament game without a full squad in practice.”
In their season-ending loss, the Lady Indians were led in scoring by Tatum Arey’s 9 points, with Jerilin Toller adding 8.  Baylee Justice added 5 with McKinlee Ryan and Matti Nichols getting 4 each.
Piketon moves to the district semis and was led by 16 points from Kara Blanton, 11 from Grace Lightle, and 10 from Summer Travis.

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