The opening game in last Saturday’s IHSAA Regional at Southridge High School between the Switzerland County Pacers and the Perry Central Commodores was a tale of two roads.
For the Pacers, the trip to the Regional for the team and fans involved a nearly three hour trek to Huntingburg, Indiana, near Jasper.
For the Commodores and their fans, it was less than a 20-minute drive – in fact, the Commodores won their Sectional title the week before on that very same floor.
In spite of the long drive and having to stay in a hotel, the Pacers battled throughout the game, but some key turnovers at critical times gave Perry Central the opportunity to string points together very quickly, and Switzerland County’s fourth quarter rally also fell short, and the Pacer season came to a close on the short end of a 60-46 score.
Perry Central is known for its hectic, quick defensive pressure, and it was on full display on Saturday morning.
But Switzerland County had its own centerpiece on the form of junior Austin Clark, and he at times dominated the game, finishing with a game-high 24 points.
The game started with Colten Hedinger scoring for Perry Central; but Chase Ritch connected on a three-pointer moments later that pushed the Pacers in front. Derek Thomas then scored for the Commodores, but Austin Clark answered that; and when Derek Thomas made a three-pointer moments later, Perry Central held a 7-5 lead.
Austin Clark cut that in half with a freethrow; but Perry Central got a three-point play from Abe Schwartz. Austin Clark scored inside again to cut the lead down to two, but the Commodores countered with a three-pointer by Abe Schwartz and a basket by Tanner Cassidy to push the lead to 15-8.
Alex Curran got free inside and scored to narrow the lead to five; but Perry Central caught a break as the quarter ended when reserve Dacota Schaad found himself with the ball at the top of the key with time expiring, and his three-pointer at the buzzer banked its way home, and after one quarter the Commodores led, 18-10.
Abe Schwartz opened the second period with a three-pointer that swelled the lead to 11; and after Trevor Smith converted a runner in the lane, Derek Thomas made a freethrow. Austin Clark then asserted himself inside again and converted to draw Switzerland County back to within eight; but the Pacers simply couldn’t put a run of offense together that allowed them to get closer on the scoreboard.
Austin LeClere scored for Perry Central to keep the lead in double figures; but again Austin Clark responded inside, and the deficit was just eight with four minutes to play.
Perry Central’s pressure began to pay dividends, as Austin LeClere’s bucket was followed by a steal on the inbounds pass and layup by Tanner Cassidy. A freethrow by Austin LeClere made the lead 13, 29-16, with two minutes to go.
Bob Tressler powered his way to a basket for Switzerland County along the baseline; but again Switzerland County couldn’t find the defense, and after Abe Schwartz made a pair of freethrows, Tanner Cassidy again stole the inbounds pass and laid it in.
The Pacers got a basket by Austin Clark to close the half, but as the team’s went to their lockerrooms, Perry Central was in command, 33-20.
The third quarter opened with Switzerland County still trying to steady its ship. The Pacers opened the half with possession, but a travel call gave it back to Perry Central, and after Tanner Cassidy scored, the Pacers committed a 10-second violation in the backcourt that led to a Colten Hedinger bucket.
Clint Swanson scored to start the scoring for the Pacers, but after a defensive stand, Switzerland County couldn’t get the ball inbounds as were forced to call a timeout. Coming out of that break, Perry Central’s Austin LeClere made a steal and a layup; and when Derek Thomas scored seconds later, the Commodores held a 41-22 lead.
The Pacers made a mini-run, getting a freethrow from Clint Swanson and a basket by Austin Clark, but Perry Central snapped that streak with a basket from Dillon Hubert and that was followed by a bucket from Tanner Cassidy.
Down by 19, Switzerland County got a three-point play by Austin Clark, and when that was followed by a basket by Alex Curran, suddenly the Switzerland County crowd was back into full voice.
That’s when Perry Central came up with a near death-blow in the game, as Dillon Hubert converted a three-point play at the end of the period, and with a quarter to go, the Commodores held a 48-31 lead.
Switzerland County would make a run in the final stanza, outscoring Perry Central 15-12, but the Pacers could never piece together a significant run to close the gap to single figures, and the Commodores went into a very conservative, time-eating offense, and put the game away.
The fourth quarter did feature two dunks, as Switzerland County’s Alex Curran took a pass for a two-handed slam; and Austin Clark followed that with a drive down the baseline that resulted in a powerful left-handed dunk that shook the goal standard.
It all wasn’t enough, however, as the final horn sounded and Perry Central advanced by a 60-46 score.
Austin Clark led all scorers, finishing with 24 points; while Chase Ritch and Alex Curran each finished with six. Bob Tressler had four points; and Trevor Smith and Clint Swanson each contributed three points.
Balance was the key for the Commodores, as Perry Central was led by Abe Schwartz and Tanner Cassidy with 13 points each; while Derek Thomas, Colten Hedinger, and Austin LeClere all finished with eight points.
Switzerland County also stubbed its toe at the freethrow line, making just five of 11 attempts; while Perry Central was 12-for-16.
In the second game of Saturday’s Regional, Linton-Stockton defeated Clarksville; and the Miners came back in the championship game to defeat Perry Central.