A great season for the Switzerland County Pacers came to a sudden end on Tuesday night with a 47-43 loss to Milan in the opening round of the Class 2A South Ripley Sectional.
For the Pacers, who came into the tournament with the best record in the six-team field, the loss was a bitter pill, even though Switzerland County lost to the Indians at Milan in overtime by one point in the regular season.
In the opening quarter, the Pacers looked tense, getting off to a slow start by only scoring four points in the first eight minutes. A field goal by Kyle Whitham and two freethrows by Justin Green were the only points in the period; and making matters worse, senior Hunter Hayes was sent to the bench with two early fouls barely more than a minute into the game.
Milan also got off to a bit of a slow start, but the Indians did manage to score nine points to the quarter to take an early five point lead.
The second quarter saw the Switzerland County offense begin to get on track, as key reserve Austin South came off the bench to score seven of the team’s 12 points in the quarter. Whitham, who’s also played critical minutes off the bench, contributed another three points; and Green had two more; but the Pacers were unable to get a lead, as Milan scored just enough at the right times to hold a 17-16 advantage at the halftime break.
The third quarter saw Milan extend its advantage to as many as five points early, but Switzerland County came roaring back, primarily behind the three-point shooting of senior Dakota Fuller, who had eight points in the period, including two three-pointers. Kollin Hayes, Hunter Hayes, and Green also had buckets; and as the third quarter wound down, the teams were tied at 30-30 for looked like an exciting final stanza.
But it wasn’t over yet.
At the horn, Milan’s Austin King hit a three-pointer that sent the Indian faithful into bedlam and sucked the air out of the Pacer team and fans.
Milan extended the lead to seven points as the final quarter got underway; but Pacer Kollin Hayes hit a key three-pointer that cut into that lead; and after Milan scored again; Switzerland County began to run all of its offense through senior big man Green, who was unstoppable down the stretch.
With 5:32 to go Green converted a three-point play to bring the Pacers to within three; and after the Indians scored again; a minute later Green completed another three-point play that made the score 41-39 in favor of Milan with 4:31 to go.
Back and forth the game tilted, with Milan hitting key jumpers at critical times to stave off the Pacer runs, and Switzerland County pouring the ball inside to Green, which caused the Indians defenders to foul as the only way of trying to stop him.
With a minute to go, Milan held a 44-41 lead; and after some furious back and forth play, another Green bucket with :28.6 seconds left drew Switzerland County to within one, and Green went to the line again with a chance to tie the game.
The freethrow attempt rimmed off, and Milan grabbed the rebound; and when the Pacers were forced to foul, Milan’s Zac Minnich made one of two freethrow attempts, giving Milan a two point lead,
Again the Pacers went down low to Green, and the senior made a strong move down the baseline, but was double teamed by Indian defenders, and the up and under shot attempt fell off the rim.
The Pacers were again forced to foul; and this time Blane Beck made both attempts, leading to the final margin of four points, and a final score of 47-44.
Green led the Pacers with 14 points on the night; while Fuller finished with eight points; and Whitham and South each had seven. Kollin Hayes had five points; while Hunter Hayes contributed two points while saddled with foul trouble.
Milan was led by Zac Minnich with 12 points; Beck with 11; Nate Davis had nine; and Jed Minnich had eight.
Milan now advances to tomorrow (Friday) night’s second semifinal game against North Decatur. In the first semifinal, host South Ripley, which defeated Austin in Tuesday’s first game by a 52-48 count, facing off against Southwestern.
The two winners will then play for the Sectional title on Saturday night for the right to advance to the Paoli Regional.