ATHENS – Following Peebles’ district final win on Saturday, Josh Arey said he had a deer-in-the-headlights look when he took his first trip to the regional semifinals in 2014.
Peebles lost that game.
The next year, he coached not to lose.
On Tuesday, in Arey’s third trip in eight years, he coached to win, and thanks to a free throw with 4.9 seconds left from his son, Tanner Arey, Peebles came away with a 47-46 victory in the Southeast Division IV regional semifinals against Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
“I was upstairs before we started and a good friend of mine came up and he said, ‘Are you nervous?’ I said, ‘Not at all.’ I had confidence going into the game,” said Arey. “I think it’s like anything else – the more you do it, the more relaxed you are. I was relaxed coming into the game. I thought our kids were relaxed. We’re not the underdog very often, but we were tonight and I think our kids embraced it early on.”
Peebles took a 36-27 lead into the fourth quarter and started the frame with four missed free throws, before the younger Arey finished a layup for the 11-point lead.
After a 7-2 Coal Grove run, the senior pulled up in the lane to give Peebles a 42-34 lead with 4:16 to play. Jaylen McKenzie made a free throw and missed the second, but Sam Angelo got a rebound and put it back while being fouled. He missed the free throw, but another offensive rebound gave the Hornets back the ball. They capped off a 7-0 run with a buckets from Jed Jones and Angelo, making it a one-point game with 2:35 left.
Two free throws from Weston Browning gave Peebles a three-point advantage five seconds later, but Angelo was heating up and hit a triple to tie the game, 44-44, with 2:10 remaining.
Jones hit two free throws to give Coal Grove their first lead of the game, which would only last 14 seconds, when Arey hit two free throws to tie it back up.
Aaron Music drove to the basket to try to give the Hornets back the lead, but Arey and Browning were there, drawing an offensive foul and forcing Music to foul out with 50.5 seconds left after notching nine points.
Attempting to hold for the final shot, Arey drove to the basket and lifted a shot up with his right hand. He missed, but was fouled on the play with 4.9 seconds left.
The first free throw hit the front of the rim, the back of the rim and fell away.
But the second tickled the twine.
“It’s just a free throw,” said Tanner Arey. “I know there’s a lot of gravity in that situation, but it’s just a free throw.”
After two timeouts, Coal Grove had the ball on the baseline. After getting it in bounds to Angelo, he passed it to Jones, who dished an underhand pass to Cory Borders for what appeared to be a wide open layup.
But Bostin Robinson was able to get a hand on it to deflect it just enough. Blake Hawes snatched the ball as it came off the rim to seal the victory – Peebles’ second in a regional semifinal game ever and first since 1974, according to the coach.
“I saw him [Borders] – he was kind of wide open – and I had to get back,” said Robinson. “I tipped the ball actually, so that’s what it is. It’s crazy.”
Robinson did most of the damage in the first half with 12 points, as Arey was limited to just seven minutes after picking up two fouls, but Peebles managed to lead, 25-15, at the break.
“How big was Wade Shively? He may not have scored a point, but just to come in and take care of the basketball and be solid defensively. Also with Weston – he didn’t come out of the game again,” said Josh Arey. “Those situations happen and you have to adjust.”
They extended the lead to 12 early in the third on two free throws from Browning, but Coal Grove answered with a 10-2 run to pull within five. Arey then found a rhythm, scoring the next seven points to make it a 36-25 Peebles’ lead with 1:07 to go in the frame, before a layup from McKenzie got Coal Grove’s deficit to single digits heading into the fourth.
“I know I had to get going because obviously I was in foul trouble and I couldn’t get in a rhythm sitting on the bench,” said Tanner Arey. “I just had to ease into it and it worked out.”
Jones led the Hornets with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Angelo finished with 14 points. Coal Grove’s season comes to a close at 19-6.
Arey scored 16 points in the second half to finish with 18 for the game to go along with a game-high four assists.
“Everybody is clicking, we’re playing great team basketball and this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” said Tanner Arey.
Robinson finished with 12 points – all scored in the first half – and Browning had seven. Peebles moves to 21-5 and will face Hiland, who beat Fairfield Christian Academy, 64-23, in the first game Tuesday, in the regional finals on Friday at 7 p.m.
“Tonight we’re going to relax, take a good, restful sleep, say a prayer to the big guy and see what happens,” said Josh Arey. “They’re an extremely well-coached team, a good team and we’ll have our hands full, but we’re in the regional finals and anything can happen here. Our kids will come in ready to play.”