By Mark Carpenter –
Some high-flying hoops action with a splash of nostalgia came to Peebles High School on Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30 as former high school and college basketball players from around the area gathered for the fourth annual Peebles Alumni Tournament, the brainchild of former Indian Blake Justice, who now serves as an assistant coach for the Valdosta State Trailblazers, where his younger brother Beau will be entering his final season.
“This whole idea started when I was still in college and Beau was still here at Peebles, ” said Blake. “The initial thought was to find a way for me and Beau to play together in the summer and play in sanctioned stuff. Dad (Brett Justice) always talks about how ‘back in the day’ there was always an alumni tournament where teams came from everywhere and played. Dad always said that was some of the best times they had was doing that kind of stuff.”
“I just started getting hold of people and things just kind of went from there. The first year we had a decent showing and each year we have been getting better and better talent coming in and things usually turn out pretty well.”
For this year’s tourney, nine teams were originally scheduled to play but various conflicts caused that number to shrink to seven, with six of those teams gunning to take the crown away from Blake and his Peebles squad, who were minus Beau this year as travel difficulties kept him in Georgia for the weekend.
“Everybody remembers Kraig Unger from North Adams, who is here every year, ” said the oldest Justice sibling. “Jeremy Bennington is here every year, as is Kyle Miller from the Piketon area who people remember. You never really know who each team has picked up until they actually get here, but we usually have teams from Ripley, Maysville, Lynchburg, and Shawnee, but a lot of teams are just a mix of people from different places.”
According to Justice, The winner of the tournament takes home “pride and a t-shirt” and the entry fee this time covered the cost of the t-shirts and officials with the extra going to the Peebles High School girls basketball program.
The streak of Blake’s Peebles team, minus his high-scoring brother, was broken this year as the winning team consisted of three former Ripley Blue Jays- Justin Fultz, Rex Woodward, and Corey Henschen- the aforementioned Unger and Bennington, plus Ian Nixson, Andrew Seaman, Rheuben Bluford, and Stefan Dunn.
The Peebles squad finished as runners-up, consisting of Blake, Jordan Payne, Travis Combs, Andy Countryman, Gabe Haynes, Seth Smalley, Tanner Arey, and Ken Kunkel.
This year’s Alumni Tourney was sponsored by McFarland Blacktop Sealing, Evans Mini-Storage/Dozing, Hometown Pizza, Kristi Copas/Mary Kay Consultant, Shear Magic Styling Salon, Carpet Outlet, Baxla Tractor Sales, Inc., and Shirtzone.