It was everything that a county basketball fan could ask for. A packed house and an electrifying atmosphere permeated West Union High School on Homecoming Night as the Dragons welcomed the unbeaten Peebles Indians to town, looking to avenge a defeat in the finals of last month’s McDonald’s Classic.
In the end, it was a balanced scoring attack and outstanding free throw shooting that would propel the Indians to victory in a close. thrilling Southern Hills Athletic Conference game, not decided until the final minutes. Peebles placed four players in double figures and kept their record unblemished at 9-0 with a 73-68 triumph.
“This was high school basketball at its best,” said Peebles head coach Josh Arey. “It was a great game with a great atmosphere and the fans certainly got their money’s worth. Peebles and West Union have such a rich tradition in basketball.”
“We told our kids in the locker room that in a 22-game season you are going to go through battles, and those battle help you grow and tonight was one of those battles.”
West Union head coach Trent Harrop echoed Arey’s sentiments.
“In big games, you typically find three things-both crowds into the game, the players giving it their all, and the officials letting the players play,” said Harrop. “All of those components were present in this game.”
The “stop Beau Justice” defense was in full swing for West Union as the game began as a double teaming, swarming group of Dragons kept the league’s leading scorer from even getting off a shot until the 2:37 mark of the first quarter, and that attempt was missed. But just as they had done in their last game with Eastern Pike, it was the rest of the Indians who stepped up, especially junior guard Zach Arrasmith, who took advantage of the attention to Justice to garner 14 first-half points.
An early Arrasmith jumper gave Peebles a 5-2 lead but the Dragons immediately got the home crowd involved with a 7-0 run that included a Tyler Sininger three to take their first lead of the night. The offensive load the turned to West Union’s James Sellars, who converted the old-fashioned three-point play then added another score on the inside to put his team up 14-9 as the home crowd went wild.
Over the final two minutes of the first quarter, the visitors got baskets from the very hot Arrasmith and Camron Gordley but still found themselves on the short end of an 18-13 score when the period ended.
The opening moments of the second quarter belonged to the Indians as they surged from the huddle with a huge 13-0 run, keyed by Arrasmith, Eric Schmitz, and a three-point goal by Cody Ireton. That run quieted the home crowd but set the visting side into a frenzy as their boys in red took a 26-18 advantage.
With 2:36 to go in the half, Sellars nailed a long three from the corner to pull the Dragons within 28-23 and at the 1:45 mark, Justice got his only points of the first half, a pair of free throws to put Peebles in front 32-27.The Indians followed that with another Ireton trey, a bucket by Arrasmith in transition, and a bucket by Scout Kremin top open up an eight-point margin. The half ended on a high note, however, for the Dragons as A.J. Frost scored, was fouled, and hit the free throws to send the two teams to the intermission with Peebles holding a 39-34 lead.
“West Union did a great job of taking things away from us in the first half,” said Coach Arey. “We had some other kids step up but we have seen that on a consistent basis this year. Our kids are doing such a good job of sliding the gaps and rolling off screens.”
As the second half began, it looked as if the Indians might pull away as they scored the first six points of the third quarter, with two baskets coming on Justice baseline drives and layups in the prime example of “take what the defense gives you” and a nice adjustment by the Peebles coaches at halftime. Back came the home team as the decibel level in the gym increased and the Dragons went on an 11-2 run. A three-point play by Sellars followed by a steal and layup by Dean Hall cut the gap to 47-45 with 2:58 left in the third and forced a Peebles timeout.
A Gordley bucket temporarily held off the charging Dragons but another basket and one, this time by Trenton Price saw the Peebles lead cut to 51-50. Arrasmith and Schmitz pushed the lead back to five but the third quarter ended with a momentum swing towards the home side when Bobby Welch swished a long three in the final seconds and the two teams and two fired up crowds headed for the final eight minutes with the Indians clinging to a two-point advantage at 55-53.
A Justice free throw increased the Indians lead to three but the Dragons completed the comeback when Welch hit from long distance again to tie the game at 56. Justice was now starting to establish himself and he converted the “and one” to make the lead three again, but Sellars quickly cut the lead back down to just one. Back came Justice with bucket and two more free throws, but the Dragons answered with Sellars and Frost to again pull with one at 63-62.
Ireton fired in a clutch three from the wing to put Peebles up four but again the resilient Dragons responded. A basket by Tim Snider and then a steal and lay-in from Price tied the game with three minutes left. The back and forth trend continued when the Indians got free throws from Ireton and Justice to go back up 69-66. That was followed by a defensive lapse on the Peebles side as Welch missed a three from the corner but followed his shot all the way to the rim to lay it back in and the Dragons were within 69-68, but for the home team, that was the last time they changed the number on the right side of the scoreboard.
With 1:08 left, Justice was fouled and sank both tries to increase the Peebles lead to three. On the next West Union possession, Brady Hinkle was fouled but he missed both shots and the Indians wisely got the ball into Justice’s hands again and he was fouled and again calmly hit both attempts from the stripe. The two teams exchanged turnovers as the clock wound down and a last ditch Dragon three was off the mark and the horn sounded with the Indians on top by final count of 73-68.
“Both teams played with a lot of heart,” said Coach Harrop. “It’s a tough loss for us to handle but it was a good display of basketball. The more games that a team can play in this environment, the more prepared for tournament play they will be.”
“We hope to play in several more big games this year and we are intent on winning them from now on.”
“Any time you can go on the road and get a win against a good basketball team, your team’s maturity level grows,” said Coach Arey. “We’re very fortunate to come out of here tonight with a victory.”
Four Indians reached double figures, led by Beau Justice who overcame the rough first half to post 17 points in the second half, including a 9 for 11 performance from the free throw line in the final quarter. Close behind was Zach Arrasmith with 18 points, followed by Eric Schmitz, who was again solid, with 16, and Cody Ireton with 10. For the game, the Indians were 22 of 27 from the charity stripe.
For West Union, two players hit double figures, led by James Sellars with 19 points. Bobby Welch came on strong in the second half to finish with 12, with Brady Hinkle adding 9 and Trenton Price 8. In looking for a sore point, the Dragons need look no further than the foul line, where they were jut 12 of 22 in the game.
The win improved Peebles to 9-0 on the season, 5-0 in the SHAC. They were back in action last night on the road at Portsmouth and will be back home on Friday against Ripley on Homecoming Night for the Indians.
(NOTE: The Indians came back on Saturday night and improved to 10-0, pulling out a 67-64 road win at Lynchburg.)
West Union drops to 6-6 on the year, 1-5 in the SHAC, and the Dragons will play tonight, hosting Portsmouth West. On Friday night they will travel to Manchester for an SHAC battle with the Greyhounds.
For fans salivating for a Peebles-West Union rematch, the two teams will meet for the third time this season on Feb. 4 in Peebles.
“No coach likes to play a team three times but I can guarantee that it will be a good game with another great atmosphere,”
13 26 16 18 —73
18 16 19 15 —68
Peebles (73): Arrasmith 8 2-2 18, Justice 4 11-13 19, E. Schmitz 5 6-8 16, Ireton 3 1-2 10, Kremin 1 0-0 2,
Ryan 1 0-0 2, Gordley 2 2-2 6, Team 24 22-27 73.
W. Union (68): Price 3 2-3 8, Snider 2 0-0 4, Franklin 1 0-0 2, Welch 4 2-2 12, Frost 2 1-1 5, Hall 2 2-2 6, Sininger 1 0-0 3,
Sellars 8 2-6 19, Hinkle 3 3-8 9, Team 26 12-22 68.
Three-Point Goals: Peebles- Ireton 3
W. Union- Welch 2, Sininger 1, Sellars 1