It was an outstanding year for the Switzerland County Pacer boys varsity basketball team. The squad tied the school record for the most wins in a season with 18; and it also became the first team in school history not to lose a game on its home floor.
After winning the South Ripley Sectional last week, however, the Pacer run came to a close on Saturday afternoon at the Southridge Regional with a 60-46 loss to Perry Central.
“Watching Perry Central on video, unless you see an opponent live, it’s hard to judge their speed,” Pacer head coach B.J. McAlister said. “When we were calling around asking opposing coaches about playing them, is that they are just ‘busy’ all the time, and we knew it would be really hard to replicate that in practice.”
Coach McAlister said that other coaches told him that the Pacers needed to minimize Perry Central’s six- and eight-point runs.
“At the end of the day, I think that’s what got us,” he said. “There were about three of those runs in the game, and that hurt us.”
“While the scoreboard didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, I thought we really battled back in a hostile environment,” the coach continued. “We didn’t quite get the play to get over the hump, but I thought our kids really did a great job all week.”
But even though the season ended sooner than anyone wanted, Coach McAlister said it doesn’t overshadow how proud he is of his team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our group of seniors,” he said. “I am proud of all of our kids on a whole, but especially our seniors. We just had a great lockerroom. There were a lot of guys who put ‘team’ above ‘self’.”
Coach McAlister said that keeping a team mentality gets even more difficult when a team has a successful season like his squad just completed, because there’s a “bull’s eye” on your team’s back everytime they walk onto the court.
“I felt like after we got past Christmas and we started jelling, there were quite a few examples of how our kids played first as a team, picking each other up and keeping everyone together,” the coach said.
He pointed specifically to the Sectional semifinal game against Austin.
“We were down five with about 1:20 to go, where we just weren’t going to let ‘us’ lose - not ‘I’, but ‘us’. Guys just made plays after plays.”
The Pacers will lose seniors Trevor Smith, Clint Swanson, Alex Curran, and Tyler Queen off of this year’s team.
He also pointed towards the future, with the core of this team returning.
“Whenever you have as many young kids in the program it’s a positive,” Coach McAlister said. “Our jayvee team was so successful. Whenever you can get experience like we gained on Saturday, and then in the lockerroom afterwards. There wasn’t a dry eye in our lockerroom because of how highly those seniors are regarded who led us this year.”
The coach also praised the community.
“We as a Pacer basketball family would like to thank all of our fans,” B.J. McAlister said. “Not just for the Regional crowd, but for all season long. The text messages that we may have gotten with words of encouragement or congratulations after the game. We’d just like to tell our whole Pacer fanbase thanks so much.”