Crucial calls and critical times lead to Pacer loss to Jac-Cen-Del by a score of 66-61

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After leading for most of the game, the Switzerland County Pacers saw their chance at a share of the Ohio River Valley Conference title disappear on Friday night after the visiting Jac-Cen-Del Eagles rallied for 28 fourth quarter points to claim a 66-61 victory.

As long as it took to build the lead, the Pacers saw the opportunity to grab the victory evaporate on a split-second call with less than 10-seconds remaining in a tight game.

Trailing the Eagles by two points, Switzerland County’s Kyle Green put the ball on the floor and attacked the basket, scoring two points and getting fouled in the process.

But the game officials ruled Kyle Green was fouled before he took off on his layup attempt, calling the foul on the floor, waving off the basket, and taking the two points off of the scoreboard.

Rather than being tied and a coming freethrow giving them the lead, Switzerland County still found itself down by two points with Kyle Green at the line.

The sophomore made one of his two attempts to draw the Pacers to within one; and after the Pacer defense got the ball back, it was time for a second critical call in less than 10-seconds.

Racing upcourt to set the offense, guard Mark Sharp was whistled for carrying the ball, and the resulting turnover gave possession back to Jac-Cen-Del. A quick whistle by the referee also pinned Switzerland County coach Brian Bowen with a technical foul, giving the Eagles two more freethrows and possession of the ball, sealing the Pacer loss by the 66-61 count, and killing any hope of an Ohio River Valley Conference crown.

In school history, the Switzerland County boys varsity has only captured a conference championship twice.

“(The foul) was a huge play,” Switzerland County coach Brian Bowen said. “But as big as it was, if we hit our free throws, it’s tied and we have a chance to go into overtime. We have to hit those shots.”

Switzerland (13-6, 4-2 ORVC) shot itself in the foot at the freethrow line, going just 10-for-22 (45.5 percent) from the line for the game and just 5-of-11 in the fourth quarter sealing its fate before the final seconds ticked away.

Jac-Cen-Del, the ninth-ranked team in Class A, improved to 15-3 overall and clinched the ORVC crown in the process. The Eagles are now 5-0 in league play after defeating Rising Sun on Tuesday night, and even with a showdown against rival South Ripley tomorrow (Friday) night, the Eagles at worst will end the season with a 5-1 conference mark, while every other team now has at least two losses.

Switzerland County held a 10-point lead early in the third quarter, and continued to fight off the Eagles throughout the third stanza and into the final period. Jac-Cen-Del then mounted a furious fourth quarter, scoring 28 points, but still didn’t lead in the game until Matt Gehl’s jumper with 4:01 left in regulation put them ahead by a score of 49-48.

The two teams traded baskets from that point, but Jac-Cen-Del pushed its lead to five with just over a minute to play setting up the finish.

Switzerland battled back, and Travis Webster’s three-pointer from the corner with :43-seconds left closed the gap to 57-55. Four Eagle free throws sandwiched around a Jordan Hinman putback made the margin 61-57 with :26-seconds left.

Mark Sharp cut that lead to one by converting a conventional three-point play with :20-seconds left; and the Pacers caught a break when Eagle Brandon Gehl hit just one of two free throws to push the lead back to 62-60 with :18-seconds left.

That set up Kyle Green’s final drive to the basket. The sophomore split the Jac-Cen-Del defense and laid the ball in, only to see the basket waved off. After he hit one of the two free throws, the Eagles’ Blake Sutton put the lead back to two with a free throw of his own.

While the free throws certainly hurt, the loss of senior Cliff Meyer to an ankle injury with three minutes to play may have hurt worse. The 6-foot-5 center played a terrific game, scoring 17 points and dominated the rebounding against the tall Eagles.

“He has done a good job all year long in rebounding and added with the points, he had a heck of a game,” Coach Bowen said. “When you get those points to go along with his rebounding, that’s a tough combination.”

T.J. Sefton added 12 points and Kyle Green scored 10 for the Pacers. Tucker Brown’s 19 points led Jac-Cen-Del with Blake Sutton adding 18. Matt and Brandon Gehl each scored 12 with all 24 points coming in the second half.

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The junior varsity boys basketball team lost a hard fought game to Jac-Cen-Del by a score of 35-30.

The top scorer was Ryan Peters with eight points, three assists, and three rebounds; and Justin Reagan had six points and had two rebounds. Michael Haas finished with four points, two assists, one rebound and one steal; and Brandon Otter had four points, one assist, one rebound, and one steal.

Devon Armstrong finished with two points, two assists, three rebounds and one steal; and Clay Meyer contributed two points, two rebounds and two steals.

The Pacers will close their regular season at Madison tomorrow (Friday), with tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.