After 20 forfeits derailed last season, Peabody boys basketball back in chase for Class 4A state title

LaMar Gafford
Alexandria Town Talk

Fueled by how last season ended after forfeiting 20 games, Peabody boys basketball is making up for lost time.

The Warhorses (11-2) are putting the state on notice as the No. 5 team in the Class 4A power ratings — closely behind last season's  championship game participants Eleanor McMain and George Washington Carver.

Even though the record is not surprising to longtime coach Charles Smith, it's how those wins have happened as a sign the Warhorses  are coming along earlier than expected.

Peabody senior Braiden Wagner (1) gets up a shot against Tioga last season.

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“Really, they’ve been surprising to me on offense,” Smith said. “Braiden Wagner and Markell McClain have really stepped it up for us in the scoring department for us. Wagner’s shooting the three-ball well and McClain’s doing an exceptional job for us on his midrange jump shot.”

Wagner and McClain, both seniors, are Peabody’s leading scorers with averages of 21.7 and 15.9 points, respectively.

While the duo has combined for 14 20-point games this season, the best performance  came in Northside’s Big Dave Classic when they both scored 20 points in Peabody’s 61-59 win over defending Class 5A champion Zachary.

“They’ve been with me for four years and they have really stepped it up this year,” Smith said. “They’ve put the team on their backs and have done an outstanding job in leading the team on defense.”

Sophomore Jordan Mathews, who is averaging 9.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, and junior Kevin Jones with  at least three games with three or more blocks, have also played important roles.

“We started (Mathews) last year as a freshman and he’s starting to come into his own,” Smith said. “He’s doing a great job for us on the post scoring and rebounding. Our junior, Kevin Jones, has been phenomenal for us blocking shots, drawing charges and scoring around the goal also.”


The Warhorses were denied the opportunity to defend their state title after they were found to have three ineligible players — causing them to miss the playoffs for the first time in 34 years.

“It really has motivated me and I’ll take the blame for that,” Smith said. “That was an unforeseeable error that happened last year and I hated it because it penalized our seniors. They were denied the opportunity to compete for a state championship last year, so that has really been a motivating factor for us.”

The Warhorses are also dedicating this season to former assistant Hiram “Buddy” Holston, who died in February after complications from COVID-19.

“Coach Buddy and I were like brothers and he loved our players like they were his own sons,” Smith said. “He really cared for those guys and they cared for him, so that was a tremendous loss for us.”

Smith believes that the Warhorses can once again make the state tournament, but also understands that there is more room for improvement.

“I’m really pleased with our efforts so far, but we have to improve in two categories – our rebounding and leadership late in ballgames,” Smith said. “But we’re not even halfway through the season yet and I’m very pleased with the progress of our ball club right now.”