Friday night was the annual ‘Silent Night’ game at Switzerland County, but it was visiting Trinity Lutheran who had the last word, as the Cougars broke out of a close game late to claim a 75-61 victory over Coach Adam Dennis’s Pacers.
Trinity Lutheran opened the game with a basket by Mitchell Hackman and a three-pointer by Jack Marksberry to grab a quick 5-0 lead; but Pacer junior Damian Breeck got Switzerland County on the board moments later with a long three-pointer. A basket by Trinity Lutheran’s A.J. Goecker followed, and with 4:31 left in the opening quarter, the Cougars held a 7-3 advantage.
The Pacers then made a run, getting a basket by Dalton Tingle and a freethrow by Breeck. When Breeck’s second freethrow attempt bounced off, Tyler Konkle grabbed the offensive rebound and made the put back, and Switzerland County held an 8-7 advantage.
Trinity Lutheran’s Tyler Goecker then made a three-pointer to retake the lead, but a bucket in the paint by Tingle tied the game at 10-10 — and that 10th point officially unleashed the Pacer student cheer block, which had remained silent until that 10th point was scored. Fans and cheerleaders set off a frenzy of cheers and raised voices, supporting the Pacer squad.
Marksberry quickly quieted the crowd with a basket; Josiah Foster followed that with a three-pointer, and Marksberry scored again to give Trinity Lutheran a 17-10 advantage as the first quarter drew to a close.
Spotty freethrow shooting again hampered the Pacers, as Switzerland County was just 1-for-7 from the stripe in the opening eight minutes.
Breeck got the Pacers rolling as the second quarter started with two jumpers; and after A.J. Goecker stopped that run for the Cougars, Breeck moved further out and drilled a three-pointer that drew the homestanders to within two, 19-17, and forced a timeout.
The Cougars responded out of the break with a basket by A.J. Goecker and two freethrows by Tyler Goecker to extend the lead back to six; but Pacer Patrick Stow connected on a three-pointer from the corner to halve that deficit. A.J. Goecker made another basket moments later, and with five minutes until halftime, Trinity Lutheran held a 25-20 advantage.
Then the Pacers made a run.
Konkle was fouled inside and made a freethrow; Breeck followed that with a basket after a defensive stop; and Konkle was again pounded inside, this time making both freethrow attempts — and with four minutes to play, the game was suddenly tied at 25-25.
Marksberry stopped that run with a bucket, and that fueled a Cougar run, as A.J. Goecker hit a bucket and Marksberry made a three-pointer to extend the lead to seven.
The Pacers didn’t go away, as Zach Weaver scored off an nifty assist by Breeck and moments later Konkle scored off of an assist by Tingle.
With the halftime clock winding down, Switzerland County made a stop, Breeck grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast for a buzzer-beating layup — and an exciting first half ended with Trinity Lutheran in front by a score of 32-31.
Breeck, the gas that fuels the Pacer offensive engine all season, had a big first half, scoring 15 points; while Konkle continued his strong inside play with seven points.
Coby Chase opened the second half scoring for Switzerland County with a three-pointer that pushed the Pacers out in front; but Trinity Lutheran responded with a run.
It started with a three-pointer by Hackman; and that was followed by two baskets by Foster, a field goal by A.J. Goecker, two freethrows by Marksberry and a bucket by Tyler Goecker — and after holding an early third quarter lead, the Pacers were stunned to be down by 11, 45-34, with a minute to play in the period.
Switzerland County responded in the final minute with two baskets by Tingle that narrowed the gap to six — 45-39 — with eight minutes to play.
The Pacers cut the lead to four as the final stanza got underway on another basket by Tingle; but Marksberry stopped the run with a rally-killing three-pointer.
Switzerland County then got two freethrows by Weaver and a freethrow by Landon Wilks to again cut the lead down to four; but the Pacers couldn’t get the key defensive stop that they needed to get closer.
Trinity Lutheran then went on another run, getting a basket from Aden Jones and a three-pointer from Marksberry to post a 53-44 advantage.
Then, with just over four minutes to play, came a critical play.
The Cougars’ Jones made a basket and was fouled on the shot, sending the senior to the line for the following freethrow. He missed the attempt, but Tyler Goecker grabbed the carom and was fouled as he attempted the put back. He made both of the following freethrows, and suddenly Switzerland County was down by 12, 57-45.
Breeck wouldn’t go away, hitting a jumper and following that with a three-pointer that again got the deficit into single digits at 57-49 — but Tyler Goecker converted a traditional three-point play to keep Switzerland County from getting closer.
Wilks made a three-pointer that got the Pacers to within eight; but Hackman hit a jumper to again push the lead to double digits.
Breeck converted a freethrow; but Hackman then nailed a long three-pointer. The Pacers then got a three-point play from Wilks and a freethrow by Tingle; but Trinity Lutheran got five straight points from A.J. Goecker — a bucket and a traditional three-point play, and with just over a minute to play, the Cougars held a 70-57 advantage.
Konkle then scored inside; but as Switzerland County was forced to foul, Trinity Lutheran sealed the win from the stripe, making five of six attempts. and bucket by Weaver inside the final minute provided the final score of the contest, and the Cougars escaped with a winning margin of 14 points — 75-61 — that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Breeck led the Pacers with 21 points, and he also added three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Tingle was in double figures, scoring 12 points, and he also had six rebounds and three steals; while Konkle finished with nine points and eight rebounds and a blocked shot.
Wilks had seven points, two rebounds and four assists; Weaver had six points a rebound and a steal; Stow had three points, two rebounds, and an assist; and Chase also had three points and a rebound.
A.J. Goecker led three in double figures for Trinity Lutheran, finishing with 21 points; while Marksberry had 20 and Tyler Goecker added 15.
The loss drops Switzerland County to 1-5 on the season, and the Pacers enter play in the Jefferson County Invitational Tournament tomorrow (Friday) night against Carroll County at 6 p.m. The game will be played at Southwestern High School.
In Friday night’s junior varsity game, Switzerland County lost to Trinity Lutheran by a margin of 54-41.
Leading the way for the Pacers was Ben Hicks with 10 points; while Logan Bennett also had 10 points. Dallas Snider had seven points; Zach Stout added six points; and Nathan Geyman and Damion Courter each had four points.