It was an early struggle against a stubborn squad of Manchester Greyhounds, but it will be the Peebles Indians advancing to Saturday’s McDonald’s Classic championship tilt. After leading by just five at halftime, the Indians broke away in the second half, holding the Hounds to just 12 points and pulling away to claim the 60-33 victory.
“Our effort level was there all night,” said Peebles head coach Josh Arey. “Early on we just did some things that got us in trouble. Manchester is well-coached. They got into that 1-2-2 zone and forced us into some tough shots. They got us out of what we do in the first half.”
In the game’s opening moments, it was a fired up Manchester team that fired the first volleys, grabbing a 6-2 lead when Austin Smith nailed a three-pointer at the 3:45 mark of the first quarter. The Indian offense finally awoke to the tune of a 6-0 run, four of those points coming from Brady Johnson. Manchester tied the game at 8 on an offensive put back by Justin Aldridge, but the Indians got a bucket from Zach Arrasmith and a Beau Justice three to take a lead they never relinquished. Manchester’s Colton Thornburg scored at the first quarter horn, and at the first break, the underdog Hounds trailed just 13-10.
After Eric Schmitz opened the second period with a basket for Peebles, the Hounds got another Smith three and with their defense playing as well as it had all season, Manchester was down just 15-13. The Greyhounds continued to light it up from the outside, getting a trey from Bryan Young and another from Smith to hang right with the high-octane Indians, who were struggling from the field. Another Johnson bucket put Peebles up 23-20 and the first half ended with Tyler Ryan converting the basket and one, leaving the Indians on top 26-21 at the break.
Whatever words of wisdom Peebles head coach Josh Arey imparted upon his troops at the half must have been magic as it was a different tribe of Indians as the second half began. Peebles began the third quarter with a 10-0 run to turn a five-point margin into a double digit advantage. The Indians got baskets from Ryan and Justice on back to back possessions then Schmitz was fouled as he hit a layup. He missed the free throw but the high-flying Justice came out of nowhere to grab the offensive board and put it back in.
Justice was held to just five first half points and shut out in the second quarter, but he quickly made up for that by firing in 15 in the third, including a perfect six for six from the free throw line. The Greyhounds were blanked for the first 5:08 of the third period, finally getting on the board on Smith’s fourth trey of the game, but by then the Hounds were staring at a 36-26 deficit.
That deficit continued to expand as the Indians went on another run, this time 9-2 over the final two minutes of the third stanza. All nine points came courtesy of Justice as he went on one of his patented spurts with a three-pointer and six from the stripe. After three quarters, Peebles now led comfortably 45-26.
“Once we got comfortable on defense, we started to force some turnovers and that turned the game around,” said Arey. “We always want to pressure in some form and I think it started to wear them down.”
The Justice barrage continued as the fourth quarter unfurled as the junior sharpshooter hit a three on the Indians’ first possession and two more quick buckets surrounding a score by freshman Camron Gordley that put Peebles up 54-26. Another Gordley bucket capped an 11-0 run to begin the final frame.
Again, the Peebles defense stymied the Greyhounds, holding the Hounds scoreless for another 4:35. The first Manchester points of the fourth period came on a Thornburg basket, but that was quickly followed up by the Indians getting scores from Scout Kremin and two Ryan Brown free throws. The outcome had long since been decided but the Hounds got the game’s final five points, four of those from Aldridge, and the Indians were moving to the McDonald’s Classic finals, topping Manchester 60-33.
After a slow start, Beau Justice led the Indians and all scorers with 27 points as Peebles placed nine different players in the scoring column. Brady Johnson scored 8 for the winners, with Eric Schmitz and Camron Gordley getting 6 each.
The Indians remain perfect at 4-0 with the tourney and Southern Hills Athletic Conference win and will move on to face the West Union Dragons on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the McDonald’s Classic boys championship game at West Union High School.
“This county tournament is a big deal for our kids,” added Coach Arey. “It’s kind of a throwback to the 40’s and 50’s and it’s always a nice crowd. The final game will be 32 hard minutes either way for us.”
The Greyhounds were led in scoring by Austin Smith with 14 with Justin Aldridge adding 6.
The loss dropped Manchester to 2-5 on the year and sent the Hounds to Friday night’s consolation game, where they will face North Adams in a 7:30 p.m. tip off.
13 13 19 15 —60
10 11 5 7 —33
Peebles (60): Brown 0 2-2 2, Arrasmith 1 0-2 2, Justice 9 6-6 27, E. Schmitz 3 0-1 6, Ireton 1 0-0 2, Kremin 1 0-0 2,
Johnson 3 2-4 8, Ryan 2 1-1 5, Gordley 3 0-0 6, Team 23 11-16 60.
Manchester (33): Aldridge 2 2-2 6, Freeman 0 2-4 2, Thornburg 2 1-5 5, Frost 0 1-2 1, Thomas 1 0-0 2, Smith 5 0-0 14,
Young 1 0-0 3, Team 11 6-13 33.
Three-Point Goals: Peebles- Justice 3
Manchester- Smith 4, Young 1