Saturday, March 21, 1998
Peebles likes being underdog

The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Standing up on the side of the room, a reporter from the northern part of the state asked this of coach Dick Reed on Thursday night: ''Where is Peebles?''

''Ohio River,'' the Indians girls basketball coach answered after laughing. ''Twenty miles straight north. . . . Straight south of Columbus.''

Lots of people have been asking the same question the past few days.

Unranked Peebles (25-1) takes on unbeaten Chagrin Falls (27-0) at 11 a.m. today at St. John Arena for the Division III state championship.

Reed said Peebles has come through the tournament as a sleeper, an unheralded group not highly respected and taken lightly by opponents. Maybe not any longer.

''I think Peebles in Adams County will be recognized a little more now,'' he said Friday.

Chagrin Falls, on the other hand, is the favorite. The state runners-up a year ago, the Tigers are balanced, tall, experienced and like to run and press and wear down teams with a deep bench.

In a six-point loss in Thursday night's semifinal, Versailles tried to slow down the game and held Chagrin Falls to 46 points - its second-lowest total of the season and 20 points less than it average. Only three teams have come within 10 points of the Tigers all season: Versailles 46-40, Doylestown Chippewa 59-51 (regional final) and Mentor 45-39.

''I think that we play better when we're not expected to win, when we're the underdogs,'' said Peebles junior Paula Scott, who scored a team-high 17 points in the semifinal victory over Castalia Margaretta. ''You're more relaxed. There's no pressure to win.''

There is, however, pressure to take care of the ball. Peebles had 30 turnovers Thursday and only uses seven players regularly. The Indians might have to take their time on offense just to stay rested.

Peebles might have an advantage in a close game. It held on to beat Margaretta 52-49 and won its two regional games by 8 and 4 points. With six seniors, the Indians have shown poise and determination down the stretch.

''I think we have more desire this year than we had last year,'' Scott said.

About 90 minutes before Thursday's semifinal was to tip- off, the Peebles players took pictures on the court in front of the lowered scoreboard with the school's name on it. They gathered in groups for more photos and have been soaking in the program's first trip to the final four.

''We've been having a great time,'' Scott said.