Huge fourth quarter lifts Pacers to Sectional win over Southwestern, 49-43

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The Switzerland County Pacer varsity basketball team advanced to the semifinal round of the Class 2A Sectional #45 on Tuesday night with a 49-43 win over Southwestern.

The game was pretty sloppy as it opened, with both teams trading more turnovers than points; but Ben Curran got the Pacers rolling with a pair of freethrows, just after Derrik Bell hit an inside bucket for the Rebels.

Colten Shepherd pushed Southwestern back in front by two; but Ben Curran matched that. The back and forth continued, as Coleman Jones scored for the Rebels, only to be matched by two freethrows from Riley Phagan for the Pacers.

After Jones scored again, Justin Green made a freethrow to bring the Pacers to within one; and after Tyler Ashby scored for the Rebels, Curran made a coast-to-coast dash to the hoop, beating the buzzer and sending the teams to the bench at the end of the first quarter with Southwestern holding a 10-9 advantage.

Dakota Fuller’s layup opened the second quarter scoring and eased the Pacers into the lead; but the Rebels countered with a pair of freethrows from Jones and a three-pointer by Ashby. Fuller scored again; but Tryston Wheatley hit a jumper for the Rebels; and the Pacers were down by four.

Switzerland County attacked as the half drew to a close.

Kollin Hayes hit a long three-pointer; and when Hunter Hayes grabbed an offensive rebound for the put-back, the Pacers took a one-point lead, 18-17, into the halftime break.

A disastrous third quarter was nearly fatal to the Switzerland County effort.

The Pacers managed just four points in the third period, an inside basket by Hunter Hayes and a runner by Curran; but Southwestern put together 11 points in the quarter, moving out to a six point lead, 28-22 at the close of the period.

As frantic as the Pacers looked at times over the first three periods, Switzerland County dropped the defensive hammer and took control of the game in the final stanza.

Coach Adam Dennis called for a smothering, full court pressure defense at the beginning of the fourth quarter; and it paid dividends immediately.

Having possession of the ball to begin the quarter, Phagan hit what may be the shot of the year, a three-pointer from the corner to open play, and that brought the Pacers to within three.

Southwestern tried to inbound the ball and break the pressure, but Kollin Hayes intercepted the pass and turned it into a layup, and with the Rebels now up by just one, 28-27, Rebel coach Jerry Bomholt called time to try and settle his charges.

It didn’t help.

The Pacers kept the defensive pressure up; and that led to a white-hot offensive display that saw Switzerland County score 27 points in the final quarter after managing just 22 in the first three periods combined.

In the heart of the run was a 17-2 outburst to open the quarter; with Phagan doing most of the damage. The senior hit three three three-pointers during that run, and would add a fourth moments later; and the Pacers took charge.

Curran had another basket in the run; and Green had back-to-back layups inside.

When Jones stopped the run at the 3:56 mark with a basket, the Pacers had moved out to a 39-32 lead.

That’s when Phagan dropped his fourth trey of the period; and after Wheatley scored for the Rebels, Hunter Hayes converted a freethrow to keep the lead at nine.

Jones, one of two freshmen starting for the Rebels, accounted for four straight points on a jumper and a pair of freethrows to get Southwestern to within five with two minutes to go; and after Hunter Hayes made two freethrows, Wheatley drilled a three-pointer that gave the Rebels life with a minute to play and down by four.

Southwestern fouled Curran after a Pacer game of keep-away; and the senior made two huge freethrows at one of the most critical times in the contest to supply more breathing room.

Jones scored again; but Fuller matched that with two freethrows, and Switzerland County advanced to tomorrow (Friday) night’s semifinal game against Austin on the strength of a 49-43 decision.

Phagan led the Pacers with 14 points on the strength of the four three-pointers; and Curran added to the senior leadership, as he was also in double figures with 12.

Hunter Hayes had seven points; Fuller finished with six; and Kollin Hayes and Green each contributed five.

Jones led the Rebels with 14 points; and Wheatley was in double figures with 12.

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The win propels the Pacers into tomorrow (Friday) night’s Sectional semifinal, where they will take on Austin (7-15) in the first game beginning at 6 p.m.

The Pacers and the Eagles have five common opponents during the season, with both playing Madison; Trinity Lutheran; New Washington; Southwestern; and South Ripley.

Tomorrow night’s second semifinal should be a good one, as the tourney’s two most successful teams during the season square off. Host South Ripley (14-8) will play North Decatur (14-7), who defeated Milan in Tuesday’s other opening game by a score of 60-50.