— By GREG WEBB
PEASTER — Applying a soundtrack as a backdrop to the District 9-2A contest between the visiting Brock Eagles and Peaster’s Greyhounds would have been an easy call on Friday — let’s go with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
As Peaster-Brock confrontations often go, formidable margins gave way to lost leads and eventually led to an ultimate rush to the finish line. On this night, the Hounds nosed out the Eagles in the first of two district tilts, surviving late Brock possessions for a 44-43 win.
Though the final period looked anything but lop-sided, the Hounds led the scoring 11-3 in the quarter. Down by seven entering the fourth, courtesy of a three-point play by Brock’s Hayden James to close out the third, Peaster cleared the margin quickly.
A pair of consecutive three’s by game-high scorer Ty Ballard (18 points) set up Eric Siewert’s timely 3-point shot just two and a half minutes into the final stanza, giving the Hounds the lead for good, though hardly imaginable at the time.
Defense, turnovers and missed opportunities themed the last five minutes of the game. After Colton Wright’s layup for Peaster gave way to Brock point guard Bailey Cockburn’s foul-collecting field goal and following free throw, there was still an “eternity” of 1:19 left on the clock with the Eagles trailing by a lone point.
Brock trapped Peaster’s guards in the backcourt to gain a pair of possessions, but could not convert the ensuing field goals and were forced to foul Peaster’s rebounders. But Peaster missed the late free throws.
Brock’s last attempt to win came on an inbound pass with 3.9 seconds left, but a miscommunication caused a final turnover.
Peaster led early by as many as eight points and were still up by three at halftime, but knew a storm was likely. Sure enough, the Eagles led by seven at the end of the third.
“We expected, and told our kids at halftime, to expect Brock to turn up their intensity a notch in the third quarter,” said Peaster head coach Derron Smith. “They did, and it just took us a while to respond to that.
“We didn’t really do anything different in our response. We just ran our offense and ‘did Peaster things.’”
Smith ceded that the Hounds were playing conservatively with the early lead, but changed that approach as the game changed.
“We told the kids to cut loose more, and start attacking in the fourth quarter,” Smith said. “In a weird way, it kind of took pressure off of us when we lost that lead.
“It’s just a change in mindset of ‘Are you protecting a lead or are you trying to get a lead?’ Both teams go through that.”
Hayden James led the scoring for the Eagles, finishing the night with 14 points. It is no accident that Brock’s perimeter players did most of the scoring.
“We were really focused on taking away Brock’s post play,” Smith said. “As soon as the ball went inside we were doubling up.
When the schedule hits the second round of district play, Brock and Peaster do it all over again, this time at the Eagles’ house.
“There’s no doubt we were lucky, tonight,” Smith said. “To turn the ball over that many times and miss those late free those, it’s tough to expect to win a game like that, especially against a team like Brock.”
Peaster 44 Brock 43
BHS 8 14 18 3 — 57
PHS 13 12 8 11 — 28
Brock: Hayden James 14, Hayden McPherson, Bailey Cockburn 8, Lance Ewell 5, Harris Jowell 5.
Peaster: Ty Ballard 18, Colton Wright 12, Parker Grudt 7, Eric Siewert 3, Draven Tell 2, Dathan Kemp 2.