Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PEEBLES — With less than 30 seconds remaining on Wednesday’s game clock, Jacey Justice knew one thing; she wanted the basketball in her hands.
Justice’s Indians trailed North Adams 44-42 and looked to be on the ropes.
But when the Green Devils missed a free throw, Justice snatched the rebound and proceeded to bring Peebles back to life. The senior sprinted towards her basket, split two defenders and connected with nylon while being fouled. She then hit the foul shot, putting Peebles up 45-44.
Just Jacey being Jacey.
“I don’t even know what I was thinking. I knew we had to get it down and we gotta score,” Justice said. “I had to focus on the free throw and make sure I made it. I said it I don’t know how many times, from the beginning of the game to when we were down by 10, we didn’t want to lose this game.”
And thanks to Justice, they didn’t.
After her three-point play, the Green Devils had two great looks at the basket on the other end, but missed both attempts. Then pandemonium took place as the Indians (13-1, 9-1 SHAC) celebrated yet another giant-killing victory this season.
“That was a massive win. Rival time. It’s been one of those battles all the way through,” Peebles coach Billie Jo Justice said. “We’ve got a smaller group of seniors than North Adams but we’ve battled them and we’ve taken our losses. We were able to get them once last year and they got us back. It’s just one of those things where it’s always been a rivalry next door. It’s always a good game and it’s always competitive. But this was definitely a big win for us.”
Justice was magnificent all night long — what else is new? But she got a huge boost from freshman Payton Johnson, which is becoming a norm.
Johnson was in double-digit scoring figures and led the team in rebounds and assists. Slowly but surely, Peebles has seen her grow into the next great player in a long, decorated history.
“I kept telling Payton I thought we could get to the rim,” Billie Jo Justice said. “When we finally did start going to the rim, she got more comfortable doing it. She just had to get in there a couple of times. Payton’s IQ is like a senior. She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. When you tell her something, she gets it. That’s key.”
Justice scored the night’s first points but DeLaney Harper and Wylie Shipley spearheaded an 8-0 run to give North Adams (13-3, 9-3 SHAC) an 8-2 lead with 4:48 left in the first quarter. Justice and Johnson then tied the game at 8-8 with 3:31 to go before Shipley and Keetyn Hupp put the Devils ahead 13-8 before they took a 15-10 edge into the second.
Shipley hit a 3 with 5:38 remaining in the first half to give North Adams its largest lead of the night at 20-12. But again, the Indians countered with Justice and Johnson. That duo combined to tie the game with 2:22 left. Hupp then scored with 11.7 seconds left, giving NA a 27-25 lead at the break.
But in the third, Johnson scored with 7:46 left to tie the game before Justice hit a deep 3 at the 6:01 mark, putting Peebles up 30-27. Justice then kept pace with NA’s offense, matching the Green Devils move for move. She also got some help from Johnson and Marissa Moore, allowing Peebles to keep a lead at 36-33 heading to the fourth.
Shipley gave North Adams a 41-40 lead with a triple, her second of the quarter, before making it a 43-40 advantage with a bucket at the 3:23 mark. Justice scored with 3:14 left, trimming the deficit back to one at 43-42. Then, with 1:06 remaining, Harper hit one of two free throws.
That gave the Devils a 44-42 lead and set Justice up for a heroic ending — something Peebles fans have become accustomed to over the past four years.
“Jacey had a mindset that was, ‘The next time I get the ball, I’m shooting.’ She had come over and said, ‘I have to get the ball,’” Billie Jo Justice said. “And it does need to be in her hands at that point.”
Justice led all scorers with 28 points alongside five rebounds while Johnson added 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Lilly Gray also helped out with a pair of points and five boards.
North Adams was led by Shipley with 15 points while Harper logged a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Hupp had six points, and Karissa Buttelwerth added four rebounds and three assists.
Peebles will return to action on Saturday, hosting West Union, while North Adams attempts to bounce back on Friday, hosting those same Dragons.
“It’s been a weird year. We’ve had so many adjustments we’ve had to make,” Billie Jo Justice said. “We haven’t been able to stay with just what we do. Every team we’ve played, we’ve tried to shadow somebody or we’ve had to go to a 2-3 zone a little bit versus our 1-2-2, depending on everyone else. But the kids have adjusted well and that’s been key in some of these wins.”
North Adams: 15-12-9-8 — 44
Peebles: 10-15-11-9 — 45
North Adams: 17-49 FG, 6-11 FT, 4-17 3pt., 27 rebounds (Harper 10), 15 turnovers, 8 assists (Buttelwerth 3). Scoring: Shipley 15, Harper 11, Hupp 6, Kendall 4, Howell 4, Call 2, Jones 2.
Peebles: 18-42 FG, 6-9 FT, 3-8 3pt., 25 rebounds (Johnson 9), 16 turnovers, 4 assists (Johnson 3). Scoring: Justice 28, Johnson 13, Gray 2, Moore 2.