Switzerland County and Southwestern were certainly not strangers when the two clubs met on the Lawrenceburg High School basketball floor Friday night for the semifinal game of the Sectional — but when the buzzer sounded four quarters later, the outcome had changed, as the Rebels defeated the Pacers 58-50 to advance to the finals against North Decatur.
Although Switzerland County had won the two regular season meetings, the Rebels came into the Sectional riding a four-game winning streak. What resulted was a closely-fought battle featuring two evenly matched teams — but the Pacers just couldn’t convert at critical times.
Things got started with B.J. Shelton scoring inside, but Nate Thomasson scored to match that for the Rebels. Not to be outdone, B.J. Shelton scored again — but again Nate Thomasson matched it.
After Cody Peters hit a jumper, Southwestern claimed its first lead of the contest on a three-pointer and a jumper from A.J. Sinders. The Pacers marched right back, getting a three-point play from Mat Deaton after a strong inside move to tie the score at 9-9.
Another B.J. Shelton runner through the lane would close a quarter marked by strong defense, and the teams went to the first break with Switzerland County holding an 11-9 advantage.
Jacob McVey opened the second period for the Rebels by scoring to tie the game; and later Blake Andrews scored to push Southwestern back in front.
Switzerland County, meanwhile, would go the opening four minutes of the quarter without scoring, not getting a bucket until Josh Snow scored from the baseline with 4:02 to play. Fortunately for the Pacers, Southwestern wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, either.
The Rebels did score five straight points to nab the biggest lead of the game for either squad at that point, but B.J. Shelton came right back with a jumper to cut the lead to three.
Blake Andrews then drilled a three-pointer to up the lead to six for the Rebels; but Switzerland County closed the half with a run of five straight points on two baskets by Josh Snow and a freethrow by Travis Webster, and halfway through the contest Southwestern held a 21-20 lead.
Switzerland County appeared to fix its offensive woes during halftime, coming out of the break with Cody Peters making a three-pointer to retake the lead; but the Switzerland County defense couldn’t get to A.J. Sinders, who made a three-pointer for the Rebels that put them back in front.
Travis Webster’s bucket for Switzerland County was matched by Nate Thomasson; and when Chancey May found the range on a three-pointer with 3:47 to play, Pacer fans hoped that the Swiss offense had finally gotten started.
Again the defense lapsed, allowing another three-pointer by A.J. Sinders; and with Southwestern holding a one-point lead, it set the stage for a bizarre turn of events.
With both teams playing solid defense, a tie up in the corner led to player strung all over the floor and the referees signaling for a jump ball. Rebel coach Pat Rady erupted over what he considered play that was too physical, and he got hit with a technical foul — sending Switzerland County to the line for two freethrows and also possession of the ball.
But Chancey May could only convert one of the charities, and when the Southwestern defense stiffened, the Rebels got the ball back and fed off of the emotion of the technical. The Rebels would outscore Switzerland County 6-2 over the rest of the quarter, taking a 35-31 lead to the final period.
Both teams struggled to find offense as the fourth quarter kicked off, but Southwestern got buckets from Nate Thomasson and A.J. Sinders to make the lead eight. Switzerland County again found itself in the midst of a cold streak, going more than three minutes spanning two quarters without scoring.
The Pacer offense took another hit — literally — with 6:48 to play in the game when B.J. Shelton was hit, causing a split between his eyes that required medical attention and bandaging.
With Southwestern leading by eight, Switzerland County got back into the thick of the fight with a run of six straight points, fueled by baskets from Josh Snow and Chancey May and two freethrows by Travis Webster. Jacob McVey’s freethrow stopped that run, and with 5:16 to play, Southwestern coach Pat Rady called a timeout.
B.J. Shelton returned to the gym to thunderous applause from the Pacer faithful during the timeout — and it didn’t take long for Pacer coach David Todd to reinsert his junior forward into the fray.
It only took 12-seconds for B.J. Shelton to make a difference, as he soared through Rebel defenders to narrow the lead to just one. Jacob McVey scored for the Rebels, but that was matched by two more freethrows by Travis Webster — but again just when it was needed most, the Pacer offense went cold.
Southwestern used a tight defense to create some timely turnovers, and then converted those turnovers into points. The Rebels got three-point plays from Nate Thomasson and A.J. Sinders sandwiched around a basket by Jacob McVey to wheel out to a nine-point lead with less than three minutes to play — sucking the emotion from the Switzerland County team and fans.
The Pacers got two freethrows from Josh Snow; but wouldn’t score a field goal when it needed them the most.
Senior Ryan Owings capped his career and the Switzerland County season with a freethrow to close the scoring, and Southwestern advanced to play North Decatur, winning 58-50.
Switzerland County was led by B.J. Shelton with 12 points; while Travis Webster finished with 11 and Josh Snow added 10. Chancey May had eight points; Cody Peters had five points; Mat Deaton had three points; and Ryan Owings contributed one point.
A.J. Sinders led all scorers with 29 points for the Rebels; who also had Nate Thomasson in double figures with 16.
The loss closes this year’s basketball chapter for the young Pacers, who entered the season by returning only eight points from last year’s varsity team. With everyone returning next year except seniors Josh Reagan and Ryan Owings, a difficult season this year could quite possibly pay dividends next year.
Switzerland County finished the year with an overall record of 7-14.