There is a saying that when the Indiana High School State Basketball Tournament opens, regular season records can be thrown out the window.
On Tuesday night, the Switzerland County Pacers battled for four quarters to get the window open against Southwestern — the number one ranked team in Class 2A in the entire state — but after a valiant battle, the Pacer season closed with the Rebels picking up a 81-62 victory.
The Rebels now move on to tomorrow (Friday) night’s semifinal against South Ripley. The other semi will feature Milan, who defeated South Decatur on Tuesday night, against North Decatur.
Southwestern and Switzerland County had played twice during the regular season — both times at Southwestern. The Rebels won 87-47 in the Jefferson County Tournament on December 22nd; and by a 79-51 margin on January 11th.
Those scores didn’t deter Coach Adam Dennis and his Pacer squad, however, as Switzerland County went toe to toe with their opponent, battling back from bigger deficits to stay in contention.
The first quarter opened with the Rebels on a run of six straight points, causing Dennis to call an early timeout and settle his squad. Tyler Konkle dented the scoring column for the Pacers first with a freethrow; but Southwestern’s Hunter Mefford scored to make the score 8-1.
Damian Breeck got free and drilled a three-pointer for the Pacers; but Zach Cole and Foster Mefford both scored for the Rebels, creating an eight-point advantage. Konkle scored inside for Switzerland County, but Hunter Mefford made a pair of freethrows. Breeck then cut the deficit to five with his second three-pointer of the period.
Southwestern is dangerous at the end of quarters, and on Tuesday night the Rebels closed the first with a basket by Hunter Mefford and then a steal and coast to coast layup by Foster Mefford that put them in front 18-9 at the close of the first.
Patrick Stow opened the second quarter for Switzerland County with a three-pointer from the corner; and after Hunter Mefford converted a traditional three-point play, Stow drilled his second trey in less than a minute to keep things close.
Again Southwestern responded, getting a basket by Austin Kramer, two freethrows from Hunter Mefford, and a three-pointer by Cole, and with five minutes to go in the half, the Rebels held a 28-15 lead.
But Switzerland County never quit, and the battled kicked into high gear when Landon Wilks hit a three-pointer to close the gap to 10. The Rebels then got two straight three-pointers from Foster Mefford and Matthew Williams, and again Dennis was forced into a timeout to calm the storm, down 16 with 3:49 to go in the half.
The Pacers responded out of the timeout, getting two straight buckets by Dalton Tingle and Breeck; but again the defense couldn’t keep the Rebels in check, as Williams scored on two straight trips.
Wilks hit a three-pointer; but that was matched by a trey from Foster Mefford; and when Wilks banked home his third three-pointer of the quarter, the teams headed into the halftime break with Southwestern in front, 41-28.
Williams opened the third period for the Rebels with a bucket; and after Konkle made a freethrow, Foster Mefford converted on two charities to keep the Pacers at bay. Coby Chase then hit a three-pointer for Switzerland County; but that was followed by a parade of Rebels to the freethrow line, as Southwestern went five-for-six to push their lead up to 16 once again. Cole’s bucket extended it to 18.
Wilks then connected on his fourth three-pointer of the game; but Southwestern responded with a bucket by Hunter Mefford. Konkle made another freethrow; but Foster Mefford then scored on a layup. Konkle then got free inside for a basket, and Tingle followed that with a leaner, and it looked like the Pacers were poised to make a late run. The Rebels got two freethrows from Foster Mefford at the quarter closed, and the squads headed to the final eight minutes with Southwestern in front by 16, 56-40.
Switzerland County opened the final stanza with an inside bucket by Zach Weaver; but Southwestern had too much firepower, getting a basket by Tyler Kramer and a three-pointer by Williams to make the lead 19. Breeck then converted two freethrows to stop that run, but Foster Mefford matched those with two freethrows himself, and the Pacers couldn’t seem to make any headway.
Breeck — the focus of the Rebel defense after his outstanding play all season long — got free and hit a jumper; but Tyler Kramer made a freethrow and Williams hit a jumper to push the lead to 20 with five minutes to play. Breeck scored again; but again it was matched by Foster Mefford, and when Tyler Kramer scored moments later, Southwestern had it biggest lead of the night. Konkle notched into that with a power move inside; but again it was Foster Mefford with a matching bucket.
Breeck connected on a long three-pointer; but Southwestern got a traditional three-point play from Hunter Mefford and a basket by Williams to push the lead to 24.
Tingle drilled a three-pointer for Switzerland County; Hunter Mefford scored for Southwestern; and Wilks followed that with a freethrow and a driving bucket to the hoop that got the lead down to 20. Billy Eccles hit a layup for Southwestern; and Wilks closed the game and the season with his fifth three-pointer of the night, and the game ended with the Rebels in front, 81-62.
On the strength of his five three-pointers, Wilks led the Pacers with a career-high 18 points; while Breeck was right behind with 17 points, including three three-pointers of his own.
Konkle, with nine points, and Tingle, with seven, closed their Pacers careers having provided strong leadership and play for Switzerland County; and Stow added six on his two three-pointers. Chase had a three-pointer for three points; and Weaver added two points to the tally.
Long range shooting on Tuesday night wasn’t an issue, as the Pacers made 12 three-pointers in the game, but Switzerland County again struggled at the freethrow line, going just 6-for-12.
Southwestern was led by the Mefford brothers, as Foster finished with 24 points and Hunter added 22. Williams was in double figures with 18. Tyler Kramer, the leading scorer in the conference this season with an average of 20.6 points per game, finished the night with a quiet five points, all in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels made five three-pointers in the game, but made 15 more field goals — 25-10 — than Switzerland County did; and Southwestern was also 16-for-23 from the freethrow line.
The loss closes Switzerland County’s season with a 7-17 overall record; while the Rebels, 23-1, now face South Ripley tomorrow night.