Pacers battle hard in Sectional, but can’t overcome cold fourth quarter shooting drought

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The season of the Switzerland County Pacer boys varsity basketball team came to an end on Friday night in the semifinal round of the Class 2A Sectional. After a thrilling, back and forth battle, the Pacers couldn’t overcome a cold shooting streak in the fourth quarter and fell to North Decatur by a final score of 61-51.

The 10-point margin was not indicative of how close the game was, as Coach Adam Dennis’s squad challenged the Chargers all through the contest.

The Pacers drew first blood on a Caleb Furnish jumper; but Dillion Merritt matched that. Furnish followed with a three-pointer; but North Decatur grabbed an early lead when Dayne Lecher hit a three-pointer and Evan Wallpe followed that with a pair of freethrows.

After Furnish converted a freethrow for the Pacers, North Decatur got another basket from Merritt to take a 9-6 lead.

Switzerland County then got an inside bucket from Justin Green off of an assist from Kollin Hayes; and that was followed by a layup from Hunter Hayes to move out to a 10-9 lead.

After Wallpe scored inside to push the Chargers back in front, Hunter Hayes converted again inside to give Switzerland County a 12-11 lead after one period.

The second quarter opened with Casper Stow making a steal and converting it to a layup for the Pacers; and North Decatur came back with a freethrow and a basket from Lecher to tie the game at 14-14.

Switzerland County got a basket from Dakota Fuller; but the back and forth continued as Merritt scored. Fuller scored again; and when Merritt hit a three-pointer moments later, North Decatur grabbed a one point lead.

Justin Green then began to take over inside for the Pacers, scoring six straight points for Switzerland County, beginning with two straight buckets to take a three-point lead; and after Wallpe scored inside; Green had a spectacular tip-in that brought the Switzerland County faithful to their feet.

Wallpe made a freethrow moments later; but Fuller raced through the lane for a layup; and after Merritt scored for the Chargers; Kyle Whitham scored, giving Switzerland County a 28-24 lead at the half.

Merritt led a North Decatur charge to open the third quarter, as the junior had six straight points on a basket, a freethrow, and a three-pointer. After another North Decatur basket, the Chargers grabbed a 32-28 lead with five minutes to go.

Green scored inside again to break that run; but North Decatur came right back with baskets from Wallpe and Luke Badgley to take a six-point lead.

Switzerland County didn’t falter, bouncing right back with a three-pointer by Furnish, a jumper from the freethrow line by Hunter Hayes and a layup from Fuller to race back to a one-point lead. Badgley scored again for the Chargers; and after Hunter Hayes scored, a three-pointer by Andrew Hocker gave North Decatur a 41-39 lead after three quarters.

The Charger lead didn’t last long, as Kollin Hayes drilled a three-pointer for the Pacers to immediately push Switzerland County back in front.

North Decatur moved back ahead when Merritt hit a three-pointer and Hocker converted a layup following a steal. Hunter Hayes then made a basket; and the score was 46-44 five minutes to play.

That’s when things went cold for the Pacers.

North Decatur went on a run of 13 straight points over the next four minutes to cripple Switzerland County’s tourney hopes.

After Wallpe scored inside he followed that with a freethrow; and after Lecher made a pair of freethrows; North Decatur got baskets from Badgley, Merritt and Wallpe. Badgley then converted a pair of freethrows, and with 1:21 to go, the Chargers began to celebrate, holding a 59-44 lead.

The Pacers didn’t quit, with Kollin Hayes hitting a three-pointer and Furnish following that with two freethrows; but Switzerland County simply couldn’t mount a big enough comeback quickly enough to overcome the North Decatur surge.

Arek Holloway made two freethrows for the Chargers with 12-seconds left; and Hunter Hayes completed his outstanding tournament with two charities in the closing seconds to close the gap down to 10 at the end; and the Chargers advanced by a final score of 61-51.

Hunter Hayes led Switzerland County with 12 points; while Furnish had 11 points and Green was also in double figures with 10.

Fuller finished with eight points; Kollin Hayes had six; and Whitham and Stow each had two.

Switzerland County made 17 field goals in the game; four three-pointers; and were 5-for-7 from the freethrow line.

North Decatur saw Merritt lead the way with 22 points; with Wallpe adding 14 points and Badgley contributing 10.

The Chargers also had 17 field goals; but North Decatur made five three-pointers and were 12-for-20 from the charity stripe.

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North Decatur moved into the Sectional Championship game on Saturday versus South Ripley, as the Raiders defeated Austin in Friday’s second semifinal by a score of 68-51.

The Chargers then pulled the upset on Saturday night, winning the Sectional championship with a 56-50 victory. North Decatur now moves on to this Saturday’s Regional at Paoli, where the Chargers (18-6) will play Linton-Stockton (22-4) in the second game.

South Spencer (17-8) will play Providence (17-7) in the Regional opener.