By Greg Phipps
The Peabody High School boys’ basketball team nearly pulled off a stunning win but weren’t able to complete a major comeback bid in a 64-61 loss to the Malden Golden Tornadoes last Thursday night at the PHS Gym. The Tanners dug themselves an early 15-point hole and were never able to fully recover. But they certainly made the visiting Tornadoes sweat it out in the final quarter.
The Tanners, who fell to 1-1 on the early season, had difficulty offensively in the opening period and found themselves faced with a 20-5 shortfall on just two field goals entering the second stanza. Peabody appeared to regain some stability by netting the first five points of the second frame and ending it on a 7-2 run. In between, Malden outscored the hosts by a 13-2 margin.
Malden led 35-19 at halftime and was able to maintain that advantage, 52-36, through the third quarter despite some inspired and hard-nosed defensive pressure by the Tanners. Peabody’s pressure defense noticeably began to bother some Malden players, especially forward Malik Bissett, who openly complained to the officials and got into heated exchanges with Tanner players on several occasions.
The home team turned up the intensity even higher in the fourth by opening the period with a 7-0 run to close the gap to 52-43. The crowd got into it as well, as the Tornadoes became a bit rattled and had trouble advancing the ball up court. Meanwhile, Avian Hernandez collected seven of his team-high 21 points (he scored 15 in the second half), and Jake Irvine exploded for 12 of his 14 points (6-for-6 from the free-throw line) to lead a 25-11 charge that brought the Tanners to within two, 63-61, with just under a minute left in regulation.
From there, Peabody would not score again, but the visitors sank a foul shot. The Tanners had one last chance to perhaps send the contest into overtime. They had possession with a little over five seconds to go, but Malden stole the inbounds pass and escaped with the win.
Guards Jake Gustin (10 points) and Marcus Barker had strong outings, as did forward Tyler Callahan, who played tough defense against Malden’s imposing front line. Mike Tansey added six points for the Tanners, who also displayed significant improvement at the charity stripe.
Peabody struggled with its free throws in the season opener at Danvers, shooting just 9-for-25. The Tanners connected on 14 of 20 freebies in last Thursday’s loss, including a solid 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter.
The Tanners played at Masconomet on Wednesday [after press deadline] and host Essex Tech on Friday afternoon (scheduled 1:30 p.m. tip off).
In the junior varsity contest, Krisli Miraka and Tyler Joyce each drilled three 3-pointers while Chioke Onwuogu and Chris Perez netted nine points each in a 56-24 triumph over Malden.