Late comeback falls short as Pacers fall in Sectional finale, 53-44

  After the excitement of Friday night, the Switzerland County Pacers moved into the Sectional Championship game on Saturday night against state-ranked Southwestern.

Kyle Whitham

  After a closely fought first half, some key runs by the Rebels at critical times resulted in Southwestern moving away late to claim a 53-44 win, moving the Rebels on to the Regional this Saturday.

  Things got critical early, as both Austin South and Kyle Whitham each were whistled with personal fouls within 35-seconds of the opening tip. Those fouls caused the two senior stalwarts to play with more caution for fear of having to head to the bench early in the game.

  Rebel Tyler Kramer opened the scoring with a basket; but South followed that with a jumper. Kramer answered with a bucket; but that was followed by three-pointers from Damian Breeck and South, and the Pacers held an 8-4 lead.

  Southwestern answered, getting baskets by Foster Mefford and Kramer to tie the score; but the Pacers responded with baskets by South and Kyle Whitham. Kramer ended the period with his fourth bucket of the quarter, and after one Switzerland County held a 12-10 lead.

  The Pacers extended the lead to seven as the second quarter opened, with a three-pointer by Breeck and a jumper from Cade Rider. Southwestern then got a three-pointer by Kramer; but Whitham followed that with a freethrow to give Switzerland County an 18-13 lead.

  Southwestern then went on a run, getting a basket and a freethrow by Kramer and a bucket by Coleman Jones to tie the game at 18-18.

  South then hit a jumper to give the Pacers a lead, 22-20; but Southwestern closed the half with a run.

  A basket by Jones tied the game at 20-20, and with 58-seconds left in the half, Kramer went to the line to complete a three-point play. He hit the freethrow to give the Rebels a 23-20 lead; but as the ball went through the rim, Tyler Konkle was hit with a foul as players maneuvered for a possible rebound. The foul — met with hoots and howls from Pacer fans who felt that officiating was getting one sided — resulted in Jones going to the freethrow line, and when he made one of those attempts, halftime came with Southwestern in front, 24-20.

  The opening of the third quarter proved to be huge for the outcome of the game, as the Rebels opened the half with a run of seven straight points on baskets by Kramer and Jones and a three-point play by Foster Mefford. In the process, Konkle and South were each hit with their fourth fouls of the game; and the Pacers didn’t dent the scoreboard until Whitham scored with 2:44 to play, but at that point the score stood at 31-20.

  South came back with two minutes to play in the period; and after Kramer scored for Southwestern, South scored on a runner to keep things close. Kramer scored on a jumper; and South again matched that.

  There was a moment of “mental lapse” on behalf of Switzerland County with 58-seconds left in the quarter. Kramer was at the line for the front end of a one-and-bonus; but when he missed the first attempt, players on both teams stood motionless, thinking that it was a two shot attempt. Jones realized the situation, and ran into the lane and grabbed an uncontested rebound. When he put the shot up, Jones was fouled as the shot found the range, and when he converted the following freethrow, the Rebels had a 12 point lead. A pair of freethrows by Foster Mefford extended the Southwestern lead to 40-26 with six seconds left in the third; but the Pacers got a shot from Whitham at the horn, and with eight minutes left to play, Southwestern held a 40-28 lead.

  South opened the final quarter with a basket; and after Foster Mefford hit a freethrow, a basket by Konkle and a three-pointer by Justin Chatham drew the Pacers to within six. Southwestern saw Kramer go 1-for-2 from the freethow line on two straight trips; and that’s when it was time for a Switzerland County run.

  Down by eight; the Pacers got a basket by Konkle, a three-pointer by Whitham, and two freethrows by South, and with three minutes to play, Switzerland County had sliced the lead to one, 43-42. When South went to the line for the one-and-one with three minutes left, it marked the first time in the entire Sectional tournament that the Pacers were in the bonus.

  Southwestern responded, getting three straight buckets from Matthew Williams, Jones, and Foster Mefford to again make the lead seven; and after Whitham scored; the Rebels put the game out of reach and earned their Sectional title with a run of four freethrows by Kramer. The final horn sounded with Southwestern in front, 53-44.

  South led the way with 17 points; while Whitham was in double figures with 12. The efforts of both seniors were rewarded by being named to the All Sectional team.

  Breeck had six points; Konkle had four; Chatham added three; and Rider chipped in two.

  Kramer, named the MVP of the Sectional, led all scorers with 29 points; while Jones had 12 and Foster Mefford at 10. Williams had the other two.

  The loss closes the Switzerland County season with an overall record of 8-17; while Southwestern moves on to Saturday’s Paoli Regional with a record of 24-2, and plays Austin (15-11) in the first game of the day. The other Regional game will feature Forest Park (22-4) and South Knox (17-9).

  The game also closed the careers of five Pacer seniors: South, Whitham, Chatham, Kenyon Bledsoe, and Tyler Perry.