It was a battle that came down to the final seconds; and on Friday night in an ORVC clash between Switzerland County and Jac-Cen-Del, by the slimest of margins the Eagles prevailed over the Pacers, 50-48.
The game was back and forth, sit on the edge of your seat tension all evening long, as both teams tried to hold onto small leads, but couldn’t as the other rallied back to stay in contention.
The first quarter saw the Pacers jump out quickly, scoring the first eight points of the game on an inside basket by Hunter Hayes and two straight three-pointers by Caleb Furnish. After Jac-Cen-Del’s coach Travis Strangland called a timeout to steady his troops, the Eagles finally got on the board with a three-pointer by Maverick Dwenger.
Switzerland County answered with an inside bucket from Justin Green; and after Eagle Devon Wilson made a freethrow, another inside basket by Hunter Hayes pushed the lead up to eight.
Dwenger scored inside for the Eagles; but Kollin Hayes came right back with a short jumper as Switzerland County sought to control the pace of the game. Jac-Cen-Del’s Reuben Benham scored; but when Casper Stow drilled a jumper in the closing seconds, the Pacers headed to the bench for the first quarter break holding a 16-8 advantage.
The lead widened as the second quarter got underway, with Furnish hitting his third three-pointer of the game from the baseline; but the Eagles got rolling with a basket by Evan Borgman and two freethrows by Tyler Huff to stay within striking distance.
Switzerland County didn’t let up on the pressure or with its hot shooting, as Kollin Hayes and Dakota Fuller hit back to back three-pointers that shot the lead up to 25-12 with 4:44 to play until halftime.
That’s when Borgman, Jac-Cen-Del’s 6’9″ do everything player, took over.
The Eagle senior would score eight straight points in just over a minute, converting two three-point plays after Pacer fouls and adding an offensive rebound and put back that suddenly had Jac-Cen-Del back within five.
Fuller stopped that run with a jumper from the freethrow line; but the Eagles closed the half with baskets by Dwenger and Huff to send the teams to the half with the Pacers in front, 27-24.
Switzerland County’s tenuous lead didn’t last long as the third quarter got underway; with Huff making a steal and converting a layup being followed by a basket by Wilson, and Jac-Cen-Del found itself out in front for the first time all night, 28-27.
But Coach Adam Dennis’ Pacer squad, playing some of its best basketball of the season as the schedule heads towards the Sectional, bounced right back with baskets by Zach Whitaker and Kollin Hayes to go back up by three. Borgman scored again; but Furnish matched that; and after Borgman scored a second time; Furnish moved outside for his fourth three-pointer of the night to extend the lead up to four.
A buzzer-beating bucket by Huff concluded an exciting eight minutes of play; and with just one period to go, Switzerland County was holding firm to a 36-34 lead.
Hunter Hayes opened the final stanza with a freethrow; and Jac-Cen-Del answered that with a basket from Benham and two freethrows by Borgman to take a one-point lead.
Switzerland County got another jumper from Kollin Hayes and a basket by Green to retake the lead by three at 41-38; but off of a timeout the Eagles ran an alley-opp play for Borgman, and the senior converted that with a dunk and was fouled. He made the resulting freethrow, and with 4:38 to go, the game was tied at 41-41.
Zach Whitaker then made a steal and converted a layup at a critical time for the Pacers; but Huff responded with his first three-pointer of the night to move the Eagles back in front.
Switzerland County went on a run, getting a basket from Furnish and one freethrow each from Green and Hunter Hayes, and with 2:25 to go the Pacers were up by three., 47-44.
That quickly vaporized with a three-pointer by Eagle Wilson; and when Borgman followed that with a tip-in, Jac-Cen-Del was in front 49-47 with a minute to play.
With fans for both teams standing and cheering, Jac-Cen-Del made a defensive stand and got the ball back, but moments later Borgman was called for a travel, returning possession to Switzerland County.
But the Pacers couldn’t take advantage of the miscue, and the Eagles grabbed a rebound with the lead and possession with 31-seconds to go.
Switzerland County fouled Dwenger, sending the burly senior to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. His first attempt bounced free, giving Switzerland County possession and some hope, down by two.
With 12-seconds left, Borgman fouled Furnish, sending the senior sharpshooter to the line for two freethrows. One of the top shooters in the conference, Furnish’s first attempt rolled off; but after he gathered himself and made the second, the Pacers were down by one, 49-48.
Jac-Cen-Del brought the ball upcourt, and with 10-seconds left, Whitaker fouled Wilson, sending him to the line for the one-and-one. The Eagle made the first, but when his second attempt rolled off the rim, Switzerland County raced downcourt with a chance to tie or win. Kollin Hayes put up a three-pointer that bounced off, but Green grabbed the rebound and muscled up a shot in heavy traffic that couldn’t find the range; and the horn sounded with Jac-Cen-Del holding on for a 50-48 victory.
Furnish led Switzerland County (6-13) with 17 points on the night; while Kollin Hayes finished with nine. Hunter Hayes had six; Fuller and Green had five points each; Whitaker added four; and Stow contributed two.
Jac-Cen-Del (16-5) was led by Borgman with 21. Huff finished in double figures with 11; and Dwenger had nine.
In Friday night’s junior varsity contest, Switzerland County was led by Kyle Whitham to a 45-30 victory.
The sophomore scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds on the night; while freshman Tyler Konkle was in double figures, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds, and handing out two assists.
Andrew Youngblood had eight points in the game; Justin Chatham had five points, five rebounds, and two steals; and Zack Wainscott had three points, three rebounds, and three assists.