Becca Sittloh’s three-pointer lifts Lady Pacers to Sectional win, 37-35

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Lady Pacer senior Becca Sittloh has hit some pretty big shots during her Switzerland County career; but none has ever been bigger than the three-pointer she drilled with nine-seconds left in Tuesday night’s opening round Sectional game with North Decatur that catapulted the Lady Pacers into tomorrow (Friday) night’s semifinal against Southwestern.

With Switzerland County trailing 35-33 with 1:51 to play, Trisha Smith was sent to the line for two freethrows. She initially missed both attempts, but a Lady Charger was called for being in the line too soon, giving Trisha Smith another attempt.

She made good on the chance, and the lead was cut to just one.

North Decatur called a timeout with less than a minute to play, trying to run out the clock; but with 47-seconds to play Trisha Smith intercepted a pass into the post, and the Lady Pacers had the ball again with a chance to go ahead.

Then it was Coach Wayne Ellegood’s turn to call a timeout, setting up his squad’s final shot. The Lady Pacers got a good one, but it bounced free with less than 30-seconds left and North Decatur gathered the rebound.

The Switzerland County defense then turned up the heat, forcing a held ball with 24-seconds left that gave possession back to the Lady Pacers – and brought the Switzerland County faithful to their feet.

Running down the clock, the pass went to Becca Sittloh at the top of the key, and her attempt bounced long, but the rebound was gathered by Lady Pacer Kristen Perry, who fired the pass back outside to Becca Sittloh – and this time the three-pointer found the range, giving Switzerland County a two-point lead.

“She had too many good looks not to make that one,” Switzerland County coach Wayne Ellegood smiled after the game. “You’ve got to love that. That’s what shooters do, they shoot the basketball. I knew that one was in as soon as she got the ball.”

But it wasn’t over quite yet.

North Decatur coach Brad Bryant called a timeout to set his final play, and when the game started again, a missed shot turned into a scrum for the ball, and Becca Sittloh was whistled for a personal foul with just 1.4-seconds left, sending North Decatur’s Amelia Daeger to the line for two freethrows and a chance to tie.

The pressure was intense, and when the first charity bounced off, Switzerland County celebrated a big tournament win. The second freethrow was also off the mark, and the Lady Pacers escaped with a 37-35 win.

“I am so proud of these girls, they have been tremendously resilient,” Coach Ellegood said after the game. “I think we were just a little bit tentative tonight offensively, we never really got into the swing of things offensively.”

The Lady Pacer coach also noted that his squad had an outstanding second half after struggling in the first two quarters.

“I thought we were passive the first half; and in the second half we were rushing a little bit, but we played pretty good defense.”

Coach Ellegood said that he was particularly proud of his team in light of the adversity that the squad had been through during the season – and more this week.

Junior point guard Bre Hinman did not play in Tuesday night’s game after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. She most likely won’t be available for tomorrow (Friday) night’s game, either. That, coupled with the mid season loss of junior Kelly Kincaid, created a shallow Switzerland County bench.

But that bench has been coming through in big ways.

Junior Allie Mathews got the start on Tuesday night and responded with eight points on the night and played some outstanding defense; and sophomores Emily White and Ashley Watson are also being looked to for important minutes as the tournament trail continues.

“We got good play from Allie, who did an excellent job stepping in and playing for Bre,” the coach said. “Those sophomores, White and Watson did a tremendous job for us. You can’t get experience like we got here tonight with the game on the line.

Coach Ellegood said that a big factor in the game was Switzerland County’s ability to contain North Decatur’s Jenna Meyer – who was a big part of the Lady Charger victory over the Lady Pacers earlier in the season.

“Our game plan was to take the big girl away, she killed us last time,” Wayne Ellegood said. “We did that. One girl hurt us in the first half (Heather Hayden had 15 at the break); but we focused a little more on her the second half (only two points after halftime). Our kids did a super job on defense. We made the shots when we had to make them.”

The game was a defensive struggle throughout, with neither team being able to break the 40-point barrier.

North Decatur’s Heather Hayden had the hot hand early, scoring the first points of the game. After Trisha Smith made a freethrow to get the Lady Pacers on the board, Jenna Meyer scored inside and Heather Hayden followed with the first of her two three-pointers in the quarter to give North Decatur a 7-1 lead.

Allie Mathews hit a jumper to cut the lead to four; but that’s when Heather Hayden drilled her second three-pointer of the period to push the lead to seven.

Becca Sittloh then hit her first three-pointer of the night to keep Switzerland County within striking distance; but Jenna Meyer scored inside again to make the score 12-6 after one quarter of play.

Trisha Smith scored inside to open the second period; but Heather Hayden countered that with a jumper. Emily White made a pair of freethrows; but Switzerland County couldn’t get on an offensive run because North Decatur kept answering offensively.

Hayley South’s runner from the baseline made the score 16-12, but North Decatur went on a run, getting five straight points from Heather Hayden to move out to a 21-12 lead with 1:52 to play in the half.

Kristen Perry broke that streak with a bucket; and when Trisha Smith hit a freethrow, the teams went to the half with North Decatur holding a 21-15 advantage.

The Lady Pacers started their run as the third quarter started, going on an 8-4 run on baskets by Hayley South, Kristen Perry, and two from Allie Mathews.

After Andrea Volk scored for the Lady Chargers, a basket by Becca Sittloh was followed by a three-pointer from Becca Sittloh – and with 44-second to play, Switzerland County held its first lead of the game, 28-27.

A freethrow from Kristen Perry gave Switzerland County a 29-27 lead with a quarter to play.

North Decatur’s Amelia Daeger opened the quarter with a jumper to tie the game; but Kristen Perry converted a pair of freethrows to keep the Switzerland County lead at two.

Kelly Schwering tied the game again for North Decatur; and the Lady Chargers seemed to take control with a pair of freethrows and a jumper that pushed North Decatur out to a 35-31 with 3:25 to play.

But that’s where the Lady Charger offense ended, as the Switzerland County defense would not allow another North Decatur point the rest of the game.

That set up the final moments of the contest, and pushed Switzerland County into tomorrow (Friday) night’s semifinal game with Southwestern. The game will be played at 6 p.m.

The Lady Pacers are very familiar with the Lady Rebels, having played them three times this season – twice in conference play and once in the Rumble on the River Tourney over the Christmas holiday.

“We know what they’ve got, that’s for sure,” the Lady Pacer coach smiled. “We’ve seen them before, it should be fun.”

Tuesday night, Becca Sittloh led the Lady Pacers with 11 points; while Allie Mathews finished with eight. Kristen Perry had seven points; Trisha Smith added five; and Hayley South had four and Emily White chipped in two.

Heather Hayden had 17 for North Decatur.