ATHENS – Peebles boys’ basketball coach Josh Arey knew they’d need Hiland to shoot poorly if they were going to have a shot at heading to Columbus for the Final Four.
But the Hawks fired in nearly 62 percent of the shots they took from beyond the arc in Friday’s Southeast Division IV regional final at Ohio University’s Convocation Center to come away with a 63-31 running clock victory.
“We knew coming into this game we needed them to shoot about 25 percent from the floor and we needed a tightly-called game. First four minutes that’s what it looked like and then the game got more physical – more bumps on drives – and they’re going to let teams do that, but we don’t respond well to that. That’s not us,” said Arey. “That took us out of our offensive flow a bit and once they started hitting shots from the perimeter – you have a team that has six guys that can shoot the three and hit it, you know you could possibly be in for a long night.”
It looked like Peebles would be able to hang with the No. 8 team in the state, starting the game with a dunk from Blake Hawes that brought the Adams County fans to their feet after a putback from Hiland’s Kendall Hochstetler.
Peebles took their largest lead of the contest with 4:28 remaining in the first quarter, 12-7, on a jump shot from Conner Browning, but back-to-back 3-pointers put the Hawks back in front. Tanner Arey hit a shot while fading away from the basket to put Peebles on top after one, 14-13.
They grew the lead to three to start the second quarter on a putback from Arey, who finished with a team-high six rebounds in the contest, but Hilands hit 6-of-7 3-pointers, with four coming from Scott Troyer, in the period to take a 10-point lead into the break.
“We set a school record for our 3-point field goal percentage this year, but we haven’t shot it great the last couple games. We felt like maybe tonight’s the night where we get out of our funk a little bit and that was the biggest key to the game because Peebles is so good offensively. We were just able to answer so many of their big shots and then it snowballed for both teams,” said Hiland coach Mark Schlabach. “That score is not indicative of how good either team is. We really thought it was going to be a close game right down to the end.”
But it wouldn’t get any closer for the Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division II champions.
The Hawks stayed hot, with Kobe Troyer – who isn’t related to Scott – drilling all four triples he took, as they started the frame on a 22-1 run to take a 55-24 lead with 2:43 left in the third, before Arey hit a 3-pointer.
“They’ve been our one-two punch all year,” said Schlabach. “Those guys have been just really good players. They’re a little bit streaky, so when they make one we try to get the ball back in their hands as much as possible and tonight both of them just got on a roll offensively.”
The four points are all Peebles would post in the period as Hiland put in 26 to take a 59-27 lead with eight minutes left.
“Those two threes they hit late in the second – you get that feel as a coach that you just felt like those were daggers going into the locker room because I could just see our kids reaction to it – a little bit of head down and that’s never a good thing,” said Arey. “Coming out, we talked as coaches that we needed to keep this thing at five points going in throughout this third quarter and they just stepped it up, took it up another notch offensively and defensively.”
Layups from Kendall Hochstetler and Damien Kandel started the fourth and a running clock with 6:03 to play. Each team finished the quarter with four points, closing out the 63-31 Hiland victory.
Kobe Troyer finished with 25 points for the Hawks, with 16 coming in the second half. Scott Troyer added 16 points and Hochstetler had 12 points and a team-high six rebounds. Andrew Miller added six points and nine of Hiland’s 15 assists on 21 made field goals. They’ll face off with Willoughby Cornerstone Christian at 10:45 a.m. at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center on Thursday in the state semifinals.
Tanner Arey led Peebles with 13 points in his final game. Hawes added nine and Weston Browning had five. The team ends the season with a 21-6 record in the program’s second-ever trip to the regional final.
Peebles graduates eight seniors – Conner Browning, Wade Shively, Colten Ball, Bostin Robinson, Blake Hawes, Blake Smalley, Andrew Shannon and Arey.
“As a coach and as a fan, I love Peebles basketball. I was born the year that they went and grew up with it and now it’s almost surreal to be coaching at Peebles for me, personally. This group of kids is, without a doubt, a very special group because of the way they’ve come together as a team. They’ve become greater than the sum of their parts, which, as a coach, is always a dream when you coach. That’s the special thing for me,” said Arey. “Obviously with your son, taking that step-by-step, enjoying that ride is something that very few people get to experience, so I’m very blessed to come out of this and walk through the journey with him and all the other players as well.”