An outstanding season for the Switzerland County Lady Pacer varsity basketball team came to a sudden end on Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 2A Sectional, as the Lady Pacers looked sluggish all game and never recovered, falling to South Ripley by a final score of 36-29.
The 29 points was the team’s lowest offensive output of the season; and 20 points below its offensive average for the year.
Neither team had much offense in the first quarter, perhaps since both schools missed Friday classes due to winter weather — but after South Ripley got baskets from Rachel Meyer and Gracie Gunter, the Lady Pacers finally dented the scoring column when Jaden Harrell made two freethrows with 4:40 left in the period. Kyah Chase followed that with a basket to tie the game, but those would be the only points that Switzerland County would score in the quarter.
A basket by South Ripley’s Cierra Copeland rounded out the scoring, and after one period, the Lady Raiders held a 6-4 lead.
That lead disappeared quickly, as Lady Pacer senior Josie Meyer hit a three-pointer that pushed Switzerland County into the lead, and Aleiah Thomas followed that with a basket to make the score 9-6 at the 5:15 mark.
South Ripley responded with a freethrow from L.J. McQueen and a three-point bucket by Gunter to give the Lady Raiders a 10-9 advantage.
Switzerland County re-took the lead when Jessie Duvall hit a jumper; but Lindsey Meyer followed that with a three-pointer for South Ripley.
The back-and-forth continued, as Chase drilled a three-pointer for the Lady Pacers; and when Lindsey Meyer made two freethrows in the final minute, the two squads headed to the locker room with the Lady Raiders in front, 15-14.
McQueen opened the second half with a freethrow that gave South Ripley a two-point lead; but Maddie Duvall hit a three-pointer and Thomas followed that with a freethrow, and Switzerland County held an 18-16 lead.
South Ripley countered with a three-pointer from McQueen, a basket by Copeland, and a bucket by Lindsey Meyer to move out to a 23-18 lead with 2:35 left in the third.
Harrell made a freethrow to stop the run temporarily, but Gunter connected on a three-pointer and then hit a jumper, and with a minute left in the quarter, South Ripley had a 28-19 advantage.
Thomas made a freethrow for Switzerland County, cutting the deficit down to eight, 28-20, with eight minutes left to play.
The Lady Raiders got baskets from McQueen and Rachel Meyer to open the fourth period scoring and give South Ripley a 12-point lead; but the Lady Pacers got back-to-back three-pointers from Meyer and Chase to slice the deficit in half.
Even with that run, Switzerland County just never put an offensive spurt together, getting another three-pointer from Meyer with :21-seconds left to close the scoring and the night. Two freethrows by Copeland sealed the win for South Ripley, 36-29.
Meyer led the Lady Pacers with nine points — all coming from three three-pointers as the senior sharpshooter closed her career. Chase finished with eight points; Thomas had four; Maddie Duvall and Harrell had three each; and Jessie Duvall contributed two.
South Ripley was led by Gunter with 10 points; McQueen had nine; Lindsey Meyer seven; Copeland six; and Rachel Meyer added four.
The loss closed the Switzerland County season with an overall record of 15-9. It also closed the high school careers of Thomas and Meyer; but with a strong core of underclassmen returning, the future looks bright for Switzerland County.
South Ripley advanced to the Sectional championship game on Saturday night, where the Lady Raiders took on North Decatur, who defeated South Decatur in the other semifinal game on Friday night by a score of 60-35.
In the title game, North Decatur earned the Sectional title with a 35-29 victory over South Ripley.
The Lady Chargers (14-11) now move on to this Saturday’s Regional, where they will take on Eastern Pekin (18-8) in the second game of the day in the Paoli Regional. The first game on Saturday pits Evansville Mater-Dei (10-14) against Linton-Stockton (21-5).