Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
JACKSON — Midway through Thursday night’s second quarter, after being fouled hard near the baseline, Peebles’ Jacey Justice was slow to get up while clutching her knee and wincing.
The star guard had already scored 15 points and was, as usual, pacing the Indians’ offense.
But after hitting one of two free throws, Justice was visibly shaken and had to be taken out of the lineup before halftime. In effect, Trimble went on a 12-1 scoring run to close out the first half and took a 28-20 lead into the break.
But in the third and fourth quarters, with Justice playing through pain, her teammates picked up her slack, bucket by bucket. And, with adrenaline pumping, she was back to normal by the final buzzer.
All of that, mixed in with superb defensive adjustments, equaled a 51-45 win over the Tomcats in a Division IV district final at Jackson — the Indians’ second consecutive district crown and sixth in program history.
“My teammates are everything. Without them, we’re not anywhere,” Justice said. “They really stepped up, they picked up everything when I was hurt, they were making sure I was OK constantly … they’re just the best teammates I could ask for.”
All of Justice’s teammates seemed to switch into another gear, but that’s especially true in the cases of Tatum Arey and Lilly Gray … a duo that combined to post 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Specifically in the second half, Arey and Gray were the focal points of the Indians’ offense.
But it was their play on the defensive end — boxing out and securing the glass, putting the clamps on Trimble’s Jayne Six … a 6-foot-1 sophomore … and getting stops — that ultimately led to the win.
“We switched to man [defense] and we were originally in zone,” Arey said. “When we did that, we got out on [Trimble’s] shooters better and shut them down. We were then able to shut down the bigger girl. Defense was the turn in this game, really. We completely turned it around and stepped it up.”
Justice scored the game’s first basket before Harlee Wilkinson hit a 3 to give Peebles (21-3) an early 5-0 lead. Trimble (19-6) then answered with an 8-0 run to go ahead 8-5 with 3:29 left in the first quarter before the Indians took a 16-15 edge into the second.
After Justice scored 13 points in the first quarter, she was slowed by the injury in the second.
The junior hit a 3 with 6:08 left in the half, making it a 19-16 advantage. But that’s when the Tomcats went on their run, taking an eight-point edge into the locker rooms.
Out of the break, the Indians started to chip away at the deficit.
Justice scored with 6:20 left in the third before Gray hit a pair of free throws, cutting the Tomcats’ lead to 31-28. Gray then scored at the 4:01 mark to make it a 32-30 lead before Arey nailed a triple with 3:00 left, giving the Indians a 33-32 lead and capping a 13-4 run.
Still, Trimble took a 38-35 lead into the fourth.
But that’s when the Indians really clocked into work.
Gray hit two more free throws with 4:45 left, putting Peebles ahead 41-40. Trimble dialed long distance on the other end, taking a 43-40 edge, but Arey tied the game with less than three minutes to go.
When Arey scored at the 1:43 mark to give the Indians a 45-43 advantage, they never trailed again. Peebles hit its foul shots and ended the game on a 6-2 run, putting the Tomcats away for good.
Justice ended the night with a game-high 24 points alongside five assists while Gray had eight points and 10 rebounds. Arey posted 11 points and five rebounds, and Wilkinson finished with seven points and four boards.
Peebles will now meet with Notre Dame in a Division IV regional semifinal at 7 p.m., March 5 at Jackson.
The Titans are a familiar foe — the Indians ended their season in last year’s Division IV regional semifinal by a 46-42 final.
“[Notre Dame’s] Ava [Hassel] is a heck of a player, we have to stop Taylor [Schmidt] from kicking out and take away her penetration,” Justice said. “They’re a really good team and they’re defensively sound. This will be our third time playing them in the past three seasons. It’s always a good game.”
Trimble: 15-13-10-7 — 45
Peebles: 16-4-15-16 — 51
Trimble: 16-46 FG, 9-14 FT, 4-13 3 pt., 28 rebounds (Imler 9, Orsborne 9), 21 turnovers, 9 assists (Imler 4). Scoring: Young 15, Six 14, Imler 10, Orsborne 3, Calentine 3.
Peebles: 17-53 FG, 13-19 FT, 4-10 3 pt., 29 rebounds (Gray 10), 11 turnovers, 10 assists (Justice 5). Scoring: Justice 24, Arey 11, Gray 8, Wilkinson 7, Workman 1.