"It feels good to know I played a good game," Peal said. "But I definitely don't like how it ended. Not a good feeling."
The exact end featured a pair of ticky-tack fouls that left players, coaches and spectators, no matter their ties, scratching their heads.
EY's, the offensive variety, came first with 13.7 seconds remaining (drawn by Yosef Yacob) and Carroll's star guard, Juan'ya Green, followed by hitting the back end of a double-bonus at 8.8, tying the score, 55-55. Yacob then returned the phantom favor at 3.7, and Austin Tillotson rattled home the front end of his double-bonus.
Peal snagged the rebound of the missed second shot and Alec Stavetski wound up with the ball at midcourt. No last shot was launched.
Following the handshake ritual, the Patriots made a beeline for their locker room. When the players began to emerge, heads were mostly up.
The season produced lots of joy. Carroll not only advanced to the Catholic League final, but also caused Ss. Neumann-Goretti major consternation before succumbing, 59-55.
Peal experienced mixed emotions throughout the campaign. Malvern Prep, from which he transferred after the 2009-10 school year, stormed to its first outright Inter-Ac League championship since 1981. And the Friars did so even though Peal was joined on the transfer trail by two other bigwigs, DeQuann "Bootsie" Walker and Lamon Church (both now at Chester).
"I was happy for Malvern," Peal said. "It was great to see what they did. I still have lots of love for those guys."
At Malvern, with the emergence of 6-9 center Kevin Rafferty, Peal might have been able to fill more of a power-forward role. At Carroll, he found himself mostly stationed on the blocks, and, in this one, he showed how effective a combination of girth and savvy can be.
Peal shot 9-for-14 from the floor, and two of his misses came in the same sequence, one he eventually finished with a lefthanded flip for a bucket.
Alas, he finished only 3-for-7 at the line, and all four misses came in the fourth quarter. Two followed an intentional-foul call.
Peal said he used to think of himself as a respectable free throw shooter.
"But, this year, I really struggled," he noted. "The coaches did their job. They always had me shooting extra free throws in practice. I'm not sure what it was."
Peal received so many fourth-quarter opportunities because EY's only player with size, Andrew Nicholas, battled foul trouble (as did Peal). He bulled for three field goals.
"It was nice to be depended on like that," Peal said. "My team needed me to produce down the stretch, and I tried to do that."
Carroll did rally from an 11-point deficit and used a 15-4 run to create a 43-43 tie with 6:39 remaining (on Peal's assist to Green off a steal). The game's last deadlock came at 1:04, as Stavetski hit two free throws after a steal/feed combo by Green (13 points to finish with 1,493 in his career). Nicholas - like Tillotson, he's headed to Monmouth - put the Knights ahead for good at 0:58 with a right-side 15-footer.
Carroll had bested EY in a much-earlier showcase event.
"They definitely had revenge on their minds," Peal said. "They played hard from the start. Came out with a bang."
Next up for Peal is finalizing his college plans. Chestnut Hill and Cheyney, very much among others, are among his pursuers.
"I want to thank everyone at Carroll," he said. "I'm having a great experience."
And it'll take a while for the basketball's-over reality to sink in. *