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Perry rolls to City title

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003

Perry Traditional Academy used what it does best - defense - to end Peabody's hopes of reaching the City League record books.

Perry ended Peabody's four-year stranglehold on City League basketball with a 63-54 victory in the championship game in front of 2,500 fans at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House on Tuesday night.

It was the eighth City League title in coach Chuck Franklin's 20 years at Perry. The Commodores employed the same ingredients that led its football team to 13 straight shutouts this past season

"We knew if we were going to lose, that was going to be the problem," Peabody coach Jim Kahn said. "Their athleticism and the pressure they can put on, and our lack of more than one primary ball-handler. They are good athletes and they wore us down."

Peabody, trying to join Westinghouse (1950-54) as the only City League teams to win five titles in row, wilted in the second half under Perry's pressure defense. The Highlanders blew a nine-point second-half lead and watched Perry end the game on a 12-0 run.

Trailing 31-26 at halftime to Gavin Turner-led Peabody, Perry's defense keyed another 12-0 run earlier in the second half. Down 44-35 with 3:48 to play in the third quarter, Perry (19-7) clawed back into the game. Mike Reid scored after a steal to cut the lead to 44-41, and after a pair of baskets by Caleb Minor and Tony Houghton, Reid stole the ball again and fed it to junior swingman Dwayne Pettus for a dunk and a 47-44 Perry lead with 48 seconds to play in the third quarter.

"Our defense has been a key for us all year long," Franklin said. "The kids kind of stepped up when we went down. We got a couple of turnovers and got some baskets and got back in the ball game."

Peabody went on a 10-4 run to take a 54-51 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Perry got a deep 3-pointer from Pettus, who scored a game-high 20 points, to tie the game at 54-all with 3:05 to play. Perry took the lead, 56-54, on a pair of Tony Houghton free throws. Rivers added two free throws for a 58-54 lead with 53 seconds to play, and after Mullen and Davis missed 3-pointers, Reid made a free throw and Caleb Miner scored on a breakaway layup to end the Peabody dynasty.

"We came out and played hard and stayed aggressive," Pettus said.

Reid finished with 19 points and Houghton 16 for Perry, which will play the No. 6 seed from the WPIAL in the first round of the state playoffs.

Turner had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Peabody, which finishes the season at 18-9. Senior guard Justin Mullen added 14 points and sophomore guard Dan Davis had nine.

"They wanted it more than us," Peabody junior Tracey Phillips said.

Rivers, who along with Reid starred for the 13-1 Perry football team, said this title meant a little bit more.

"This feels just as good, if not better," Rivers said.

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