Peabody's Gabriel Jordan (15, center) shoots over Opelousas defenders Tuesday. / Melinda Martinezemail@example.com
Some nights a basketball player or team just doesn’t have its A game.
The sign of a good team or player is fighting through that off night and still coming out on top.
The Peabody Warhorses did just that Tuesday night in a 63-55 win over Opelousas.
Peabody’s leading scorer and captain, senior Gabriel Jordan, struggled from the outset and his team followed suit, but the Warhorses (8-1) still were able to hold off a late charge from a team it had previously beaten twice this season.
Jordan, who entered the game as Peabody’s only player scoring in double figures, made just one shot in the game, and the Warhorses went 0-for-6 with five turnovers on their first 11 possessions.
Luckily for Peabody, its defense was up to the task. While the Warhorses struggled on offense, they held Opelousas scoreless, too. Neither team scored for the game’s first four minutes before Peabody got hot twice on its way to a 17-9 lead after the first quarter.
“I went through a slump tonight,” Jordan admitted, “and I wanted to be more of a leader in other aspects outside of scoring.”
Jordan, who didn’t take a shot in the second or third quarters, said he focused on his defense and rebounding against Opelousas, which previously had lost to Peabody by 39 points at the Warhorses’ tournament last month and then by two points at its own tournament last week.
He led the Warhorses with nine rebounds on Tuesday, but he also had a team-high five of Peabody’s 14 turnovers.
Peabody coach Charles Smith said his team played well in spurts but is still learning how to play with a number of new parts around Jordan.
“Actually, we’re still learning each position and still learning what our role is to help this team,” Smith said.
Peabody led by as much as 12 points in the second quarter before the Tigers (2-6) cut the gap to seven at the half. The lead was just five early in the third quarter before the Warhorses ripped off seven straight points to push the lead back to double figures.
The lead would stay that way until early in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers cut it to eight at 51-43. Peabody answered with a bucket by junior forward Jarvis Sewell, and back-to-back baskets by sophomore point guard Jacoby Ross.
Ross made a steal and went coast to coast for a layup, and on the Warhorses’ next possession made a beautiful spin move at the elbow to shake his defender before pulling up and hitting a jumper.
The Warhorses led by 14, 57-43, and appeared ready to make the game a blowout. Except they didn’t score again for almost five minutes as Opelousas chipped away at the lead. The Tigers cut it to four before Peabody’s defense stiffened over the final three minutes.
Jeff Sibley made his only basket with 35 seconds left, and Jordan and Ross made four free throws to ice the victory. Jordan said the Warhorses became determined to control the pace of the game in response to Opelousas’ run.
“We responded by slowing our pace down, keeping our composure and not letting their press get to us,” Sibley said.
Smith said it’s clear his team still isn’t in sync yet and lacks a killer instinct.
“We don’t have that yet,” he said. “That’s what we’re striving for — when we get a team down, we go for the kill.”
Ross paced the Warhorses with 15 points as the only player in double figures. Seven other players scored between five and nine points.
Smith said Ross stepped up in the second half Tuesday night, and Jordan said the young sophomore is continuing to develop as the team’s trigger-man on offense.
“At times he messes up, too, but as a leader I just tell him to keep going, keep pushing through and keep working hard,” Jordan said.