By Mark Carpenter
Knock down the regional door! For the first time since 1984, the Peebles Indians are coming through. With a hard-fought, grind-it-out 66-58 win over the South Gallia Rebels last Saturday, the Indians earned another district championship and competed in the first round of the Division IV Regional Tournament last night.
“It feels great,” said Brady Johnson, the only senior in the Peebles starting lineup. “My father was on that 1984 team and now he can’t rub that in my face anymore.”
“It’s great to have two teams from the Southern Hills Athletic Conference going to the regional tournament,” said Peebles head coach Josh Arey, referring to the fact that the Fairfield Lions had punched their ticket with a 61-51 win over Paint Valley. “The support we get from around the league is amazing.”
“Our crowd today was fantastic again and I am just in awe of our community support.”
The early moments of the first quarter in Saturday’s district championship game were a bit anxious for the large crowd of Peebles fans who made the long trek to the Ohio University Convocation Center. South Gallia scored the game’s first eight points and kept the Indians off the board for over three minutes. Peebles finally broke through with a steal and lay in from Beau Justice and two subsequent free throws from Cody Ireton sliced the Rebel lead in half , but the Rebels answered with baskets by Ethan Swain and Gus Slone to take a 12-4 lead at the 3:50 mark of the opening period.
Two Justice free throws made it 12-6 and Peebles got a late bucket by Eric Schmitz, but when the first eight minutes came to a close, it was the Rebels riding high, doubling up the Indians at 16-8.
To start the second stanza, the Indians got points on their first two possessions, first on a nice baseline drive by Zach Arrasmith and ten two more Justice free throws. Again, though, the Rebels had an answer as they got a three from Devin Lucas to extend their lead out to 19-12. Brady Johnson hit a pair from the line for Peebles, but then the Rebels seemed to grasp total control of the contest, getting four consecutive free throws from Mikey Wheeler to build a nine-point advantage.
A Justice basket at the 2:12 mark of the first half made it 23-16 and began a 11-2 Peebles spurt that sent the Indians to the locker room with a ton of momentum as the switch seemed to finally come on after a lackluster first 14 minutes. A basket by Scout Kremin and then a Justice “3” continued the run and a pair of Justice free throws with 31,0 seconds left drew the Indians within 25-23. In the half’s final seconds, Justice drove towards the basket, was blocked by a pair of South Gallia defenders, and knocked off balance, but still managed to get off a shot. While the Rebel fans screamed for a traveling call, the Peebles fans cheered as the ball banked through the net, sending the Indians to the locker room now in a brand new ball game, all tied at 25.
When the second half began, it didn’t take long for Peebles to get their first lead of the day when Ireton hit on of two foul shots on the Indians’ first possession. When Ireton missed the second, Peebles’ Arrasmith made a quick steal and laid it in to put the Indians on top 28-25. After a South Gallia free throw, Justice made a drive to the basket and scored and then moments later drove to the rack again and a blocking call was whistled on South Gallia. Rebels’ head coach Larry Howell did not see the play the same way and was called for a technical foul and at that point, one could see the momentum beginning to shift in favor of the red and white and a little fire grow in the Indians #12.
Justice hit one of two on the technical attempts, followed that up with a three-pointer off an out of bounds play, and then another bucket with 4:31 left in the third and suddenly the Indians were in control, taking a double digit lead at 36-26.
The Rebels recovered to get two quick scores but the third quarter scoring flurry for Peebles continued with a basket inside by Schmitz and then an Ireton trey that pushed the lead back to 10. A Tyler Ryan put back bucket was followed by a three from South Gallia’s Lucas, but answered by the Indians with an Arrasmith score and a long distance bomb by Justice in transition. The Rebels got the final basket of the third quarter but a tie game at the half had now turned into a 10-point Peebles lead at 48-38.
The first four minutes of the final period could aptly be described as a continual “parade to the free throw line.” In fact, the only thing that kept the Rebels within striking distance was that they hit six shots from the stripe. Not that the Indians didn’t fare well from the line either as Justice hit four straight and then an Arrasmith trey with 4:40 to play gave Peebles its biggest lead of the night at 55-44.
The Rebels weren’t going to make it that easy though, as they hammered out a 9-1 run, punctuated by a three from Brayden Greer and with 2:13 to play, the Peebles lead looked much more precarious, now just 56-53, and the tedious process of fouling to stop the clock began.
Redemption is a common theme in sports and on Saturday it turned out to be a day of redemption for Peebles’ Zach Arrasmith. After missing a later free throw in the previous district semi game, Arrasmith would get that second chance against South Gallia. After the Indians had held the ball for nearly a minute, Arrasmith was fouled with 1:08 to play and erasing the last game from his mind, hit both shots to make it 58-53.
After the Rebels missed a three attempt, Kremin grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and hit one of two from the line to stretch the Peebles lead to six. South Gallia answered with a bucket by Landon Hutchinson and then quickly fouled Justice with 47 seconds to play. The nearly automatic Indians junior hit both attempts and the Rebels missed another three and put Arrasmith back at the line and #10 nailed two more to pretty much seal the deal, making it 63-55 with just 31 ticks remaining on the Convo clock.
“I just felt more comfortable out there today,” said Arrasmith in the locker room after the game. “I felt like I was in more of a rhythm and I was more confident.”
Arrasmith was fouled again with 23 seconds to go and hit one of two this time, giving him an impressive 5 of 6 in crunch time, but it was time to add a little icing to his cake. On his second free throw, the Indians took everybody off the line, leaving just Arrasmith and four Rebels. Somehow the 5’10” junior found an opening, grabbed the rebound, and scored around a dazed bunch of Rebels, setting off a wild celebration in the Peebles crowd. South Gallia got a late three that meant nothing because it was time for the Indians to celebrate, collect their district championship medal, and cut down the nets, winning the title by a final score of 66-58.
Though this victory could very much be described as a total team effort, it was Justice again leading the way on offense, getting 32 big points, including a remarkable 13 for 15 performance from the free throw line. His line also included 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Zach Arrasmith was the perfect complementary partner on the day, getting 16 points and 7 boards. Cody Ireton scored 6 points and topped the team with 8 rebounds.
“I’m very tough on Zach,” said Coach Arey. “But today I just had to give him a big hug after the game.”
“If he ball is in Beau’s hands coming down the floor, there’s no luck involved,” said Arey. “The kid is just skilled and amazing. This whole team just works their tails off for us.”
For South Gallia, three players reached double figures, led by 11 points from Brayden Greer and 10 each from Landon Hutchinson and Ethan Spurlock.
Now the 22-3 Indians face a daunting task as they moved into the regional semi-finals, just two wins from a coveted berth in the Final Four in Columbus. Thought the results will already be known by the time this issue goes to print, the Indians faced the powerful Columbus Africentric Nubians last night, again on the floor of the Ohio University Convocation Center. (Look for a full report on that game in a future issue of The People’s Defender.)
“It’s not a seven-game series, it’s just one game and I like our chances,” said Arey. “We have one of the best players in the state and kids who know what they are supposed to do around him. I’m just thrilled to death and looking forward to the challenge.”
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
16 9 13 20 —58
8 17 23 18 —66
S. Gallia (58): Hutchinson 4 2-2 10, Greer 3 4-4 11, Spurlock 3 4-10 10, Lucas 2 0-0 6, Ehman 0 0-1 0, Wheeler 1 6-6 8,
Slone 3 0-0 6, Swain 2 0-0 4, Calhoun 1 0-0 3, Team 19 16-23 58.
Peebles (66): Arrasmith 5 5-6 16, Justice 8 13-15 32, E. Schmitz 2 0-0 4, Ireton 1 3-8 6, Kremin 1 1-3 3, Johnson 0 2-2 2,
Ryan 1 1-2 3, Team 18 25-36 66.
Three-Point Goals: S. Gallia- Greer 1, Lucas 2, Calhoun 1
Peebles- Arrasmith 1, Justice 3, Ireton 1