It was nip and tuck for more than three quarters Saturday night in the Sectional championship game between the Switzerland County Lady Pacers and the Southwestern Lady Rebels, but Switzerland County missed some critical freethrows in the closing minutes and Southwestern made some key baskets and claimed the Sectional crown by a final score of 48-43.
Having played each other three times already this season, there weren’t very many surprises in Saturday’s championship game, as the two evenly matched teams traded baskets and leads throughout the contest.
With Southwestern keying on junior forward Ashley Chase; senior center Brittany Cole stepped up with an outstanding game, finishing with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Brittany Cole got the game started with two quick freethrows to take an early lead; and after Kristi McVey knotted the game for the Lady Rebels and Kayla Hay put Southwestern out in front; Ashley Bright connected on a three-pointer that pushed Switzerland County back in front.
Ashley Chase then scored from the baseline and Brittany Cole scored inside, and with half of the first period in the books, Switzerland County held a 9-4 lead.
Kristi McVey scored to stop the Lady Pacer run temporarily, but Brittany Cole made two more freethrows to keep the lead at five.
Southwestern then answered with baskets by Camille Deuser and Kristi McVey; but Brittany Cole converted another freethrow to keep Switzerland County ahead by two.
Southwestern then closed the quarter with two straight three-pointers, one by Jesse Oliver and another by Devin Brierly, and after a fast-paced opening eight minutes, Southwestern held a 16-12 advantage.
Switzerland County opened the second quarter by going to Ashley, and she responded with a bucket that pulled the Lady Pacers within two. After Sonja Bowyer converted a freethrow for Southwestern, Ashley Chase scored again. Moments later with an assist from Natalie Daugherty, Ashley Chase’s third bucket in a row put the Lady Pacers back in front..
Kodi Driver has been an important component of the Lady Pacer team all season, coming off of the bench to provide some timely offense. She did just that again on Saturday, entering the game and drilling a three-pointer that gave Switzerland County a 21-17 lead.
Kristi McVey scored to cut the lead to two; but Ashley Chase matched that with another jumper.
With the clock rolling inside of a minute to play in the half, Switzerland County held a four point lead and had possession of the ball — but that’s when things went temporarily wrong.
Devin Brierly’s steal and layup with 19-seconds left cut the lead to two; and another steal led to a layup by Sonja Bowyer as the horn sounded — and instead of going into the halftime break with a lead and momentum, Switzerland County headed to the locker room tied at 23-23 as Southwestern and their fans celebrated the sudden turn around.
The third period was a see-saw affair, with Southwestern getting a bucket from Kristi McVey to open the period, but Ashley Chase matched that. Kayla Hay then made a freethrow to put the Lady Rebels back in front; but Brittany Cole scored to reclaim the lead for Switzerland County.
A Kristi McVey freethrow tied the game; and moments later two Jesse Oliver freethrows put Southwestern back in the lead. Brittany Cole responded with another basket and a freethrow to sneak the Lady Pacers back in front; and fans of both teams were on the edges of their seats waiting on one of the squads to make another run.
Brittany Cole kept the pressure up, scoring again to make the lead three; but Kristi McVey scored on two freethrows to keep the Lady Rebels within striking distance.
With 3:26 to play in the period and Switzerland County leading by one, Ashley Bright got loose and made her second three-pointer of the game; but the Switzerland County defense couldn’t capitalize on holding the lead.
Southwestern made four straight freethrows to tie the game again; but Natalie Daugherty scored against the Southwestern pressure defense to put the Lady Pacers back in front.
Holding a two point lead with the quarter winding down, Switzerland County allowed a layup by Kristi McVey, but that was matched by a bucket from Brittany Cole.
Again it was time for bad luck to bite the Lady Pacers.
Holding that two point lead, Switzerland County committed a foul on Sonja Bowyer as the period came to an end, sending the freshman to the freethrow line with no time left on the clock. She made only one of the charities, and with a period to play, Switzerland County held a 39-38 lead.
The fourth quarter would spell doom for the Lady Pacers’ hopes of repeating as Sectional champions, as they would be outscored 10-4 in the period, converting their one point lead into a five-point loss.
The only points that Switzerland County would have in the quarter was a three-pointer by Ashley Bright a minute into the period; but then the Lady Pacers would go more than two minutes before Ashley Chase made a freethrow with 4:53 to play.
It would be the last point that Switzerland County would score in the game.
Southwestern put the game away at the freethrow line, and as the buzzer sounded the Lady Rebels celebrated a mid court as Switzerland County was left to wonder what exactly went wrong.
The Lady Pacers did miss some critical freethrows in the game’s final three minutes, and just could not get the timely shot to fall at the right time.
The freethrow line was a big factor in the game, as Switzerland County was 7-for-14 from the line; while Southwestern was 16-for-28 — nine more points. Both teams made 12 two-point field goals, while the Lady Pacers made two more three-pointers — four to two.
Along with Brittany Cole’s 16 points; Ashley Chase was also in double figures with 13. Ashley Bright added nine points on the night; Kodi Driver had three; and Natalie Daugherty finished with two.
Kristi McVey led all scorers with 24 points; and Devin Brierly finished with nine.
Southwestern now moves on to face Shenandoah in the second game of this Saturday’s Shenandoah Regional. The first game will feature Cambridge City Lincoln and Heritage Christian.