First the bad news: on Tuesday night in the opening round of the IHSAA girls Class 2A Sectional game at South Ripley, Switzerland County Lady Pacers managed just one point.
The good news? An awful first half was followed by one of the most exciting second halfs that the team played all season long, but after a furious comeback, in the end Switzerland County fell just short to Southwestern, 29-24.
The first half saw the Lady Pacers try and figure out the Lady Rebel defense while going absolutely frigid from the floor. A freethrow by Jaelyn Hemingway with 1:42 left in the first quarter was the only point that the Lady Pacers would post in the opening quarter, falling behind 10-1 to Southwestern.
But that freethrow turned out to be the highlight of the first half, because Switzerland County failed to score anything in the second quarter. Fortunately, while the Lady Pacer offense struggled, the defense was solid, holding Southwestern to just 15 points in the first half.
Both teams went to the lockerroom looking for answers, and what came next was an absolutely, on the edge of your seat final 16 minutes.
After Abby Ralston scored for Southwestern to open the second half and make the score 17-2; Switzerland County finally broke its offensive drought when McKenli Scudder hit a layup with 6:36 to go.
That broke the ice, and was quickly followed by a basket by Aleiah Thomas, a freethrow by Calleigh Powell, and a three-pointer by Powell.
Suddenly, with 2:11 left in the third, Switzerland County was right back in the game, down by eight, 17-9.
Southwestern then countered, getting baskets by Bella Marcum and Kaitlyn West to finish out the period on top, 21-9.
Down by 14 at the half, the Lady Pacers had fought to get back into the game, but over the third eight-minute span, Switzerland County had shaved just two points off the deficit.
But that would change – quickly.
The final stanza opened with Southwestern’s Kate Sampson connecting on two freethrows to push the lead back to 14. Lady Pacer Jody Breeck then got free inside for a bucket; and West countered that with a basket.
Just 5:55 to go, and Switzerland County was still down 14 points.
Breeck scored again to cut the lead to 12.
Scudder followed that with a traditional three-point play, and the lead was nine.
After Southwestern’s Ellie Foley missed the front end of a one-and-one, a three-pointer by Thomas narrowed the gap to six.
Marcum then missed the front end of a one-and-bonus, and a runner in the lane by Thomas cut the lead down to four, 25-21, with two minutes to go.
Ralston then went to the line for the Lady Rebels, and she missed the front end of her one-and-one opportunity; and when Thomas pulled down the rebound, she was fouled. The sophomore sensation then connected on the first of a one-and-one opportunity; and when the second attempt bounced off, Switzerland County grabbed the offensive rebound, and Lexi Lay was fouled with 1:14 to go.
The junior calmly sank both of her attempts, and after scoring just a single point in the entire first half, the Lady Pacers were within a point of tying Southwestern, down 25-24, with a minute to play.
The Pacer crowd was going crazy and head coach Mark Boggs set his defense; but Lady Rebel Taylor Cole gave Southwestern a little breathing room when she connected on both freethrow attempts with just under a minute to play.
Switzerland County failed to connect on its offensive end, and Southwestern’s Marcum was fouled with 47-seconds remaining and the Lady Rebels in the double bonus. Marcum missed the first of her two attempts, and when the second also missed the mark, Breeck pulled down a huge defensive rebound, but the officials called her for a critical travel, giving possession back to Southwestern.
Again Cole was fouled, and again she converted both freethrow attempts, which pushed the margin to five, and the clock ran out on the game and the Lady Pacer season, 29-24.
Thomas led Switzerland County with eight points in the game, while Scudder had five. Breeck, playing in her final game, finished with four points; and Powell also had four. Lay had two points, and Hemingway chipped in one.
Southwestern was led by West with seven points; Marcum had six; Cole and Ralston each had four; Emma Foley and Kate Sampson each had three; and Ellie Foley had two.
The win sends Southwestern into tomorrow (Friday) night’s first semifinal game against Milan; while North Decatur, winner of Tuesday’s second game over South Decatur, takes on favorite South Ripley. The two winners on Friday night will then play for the Sectional title on Saturday.