Peabody Magnet High's defending state champion Warhorses may be starting with a new batch of players, but they looked sharp as ever in shredding Neville High of Monroe, 66-36, in their home opening contest Tuesday at the "Emerald Palace" in Alexandria.
It was a rematch of last year's Class 4A state semifinal game won by Peabody, 47-42.
Peabody (4-0) has just two seniors on this year's squad after losing its top seven players from last year's squad. Junior guard Gabriel Jordan led Peabody in scoring with 18 points and senior guard Dvonté Tennie added 15 and had three steals in the first half when Peabody focused on its defense.
"What we've been working on mostly is defense," said longtime Peabody High coach Charles Smith, whose team claimed the school's seventh state basketball championship, and sixth under Smith, last March. "The offense is going to take a little time to come around because these kids are looking at each other to score points, so we're trying to win on defense, and I thought we did a good job doing that."
Peabody led 11-8 after the first quarter and went on a 8-0 run in the second period -- highlighted by a steal, drive and layup by Tennie, then a baseline drive and spinning layup by Tennie -- to build a 27-12 lead en route to a 34-17 halftime lead.
One of the shots that wowed the crowd late in the half was a 24-foot 3-pointer by junior guard Devetrice Boyd, who finished with 10 points.
"It's kind of funny, we ended last season playing them and we started this season against them," said Phillip Craig, beginning his 12th year as Neville's head coach. "We've still got eight guys playing football."
Neville will be playing in the state football semifinals this Friday at home against McDonogh 35. "We brought some freshmen and JV players in here, and we'll have four left when we get all our players back, and two of them will be key."
Jacoby Davis led 0-1 Neville with 12 points and Leon Smith added 11.
Smith said he suspects Tennie will emerge as an offensive leader along with Jordan, who is the team's "best athlete."