Pacers fend off injuries, winter weather, but season ends with loss to Lawrenceburg

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Already playing without starting forward Clay Meyer, the Switzerland County Pacers entered Sectional play on Tuesday night at Southwestern with hopes of getting past a Lawrenceburg Tiger team that is ranked eighth in the state in Class 2A, and are the defending sectional champions.

Falling to the Tigers by 11 points just a few weeks ago, the Pacers came out determined to avenge that loss, but more injuries hobbled starter Kyle Green and key reserve Michael Haas during Tuesday’s game, and in the end Lawrenceburg survived by a 49-44 score.

The Tigers now advance on to play South Ripley in the first semifinal game tomorrow (Friday) night. The second semifinal will pit the winners of Wednesday’s two games: North Decatur or Hauser against Southwestern or Milan.

For the Pacers, Tuesday’s loss was a sudden end to an outstanding season. Switzerland County captured the ORVC championship for only the third time in school history; recorded a respectable overall record of 13-8; and had a signature win over Madison to close the regular season.

Lawrenceburg’s fast-paced style of play was evident from the opening tip, as the Tigers tried to get Switzerland County into an uptempo run-and-gun type of game.

The Pacers slowed the offense down, playing to their height advantage inside, and when sophomore Brennan Bragg opened the game with a bucket, it looked like Switzerland County had a recipe for success.

After Lawrenceburg’s Adam Behlmer matched that basket, Kyle Green connected on a long three-pointer to give Switzerland County the early 5-2 advantage.

The Tigers came back with a run of six straight points; but Brandon Otter stopped that run with a jumper in the lane, pulling the Pacers back to within a point.

With 1:51 to play in the opening quarter, Switzerland County’s Kyle Green was whistled with his second foul of the contest, and the junior sharpshooter found a seat on Coach Brian Bowen’s bench for the remainder of the period. The Tigers then got a freethrow from Doug Seymour and a basket from Same Ritzman, and after one quarter, Lawrenceburg held an 11-7 lead.

After the Tigers scored to open the second stanza, Switzerland County’s Mark Sharp responded with a traditional three-point play that drew the Pacers back to within three. At the 5:04 mark, Kyle Green returned to the contest; and after Sean Powell scored for the Tigers, Kyle Green connected on his second three-pointer of the evening.

The offense teetered back and forth, as Sean Powell scored again to push the Tiger lead back to four.

That’s when the Switzerland County offense found its groove, getting baskets from Brennan Bragg and Brandon Otter and another three-pointer from Kyle Green to jump out to a 20-17 lead with 2:31 to play in the half.

Sean Powell stopped that Pacer run with a leaner in the lane; and after both teams failed to convert, Lawrenceburg’s Doug Seymour scored to push the Tigers back on top by one, 21-20 – and that’s how the first half ended.

Sensing that Kyle Green’s hot hand might propel the Pacers to a big offensive run, Lawrenceburg coach Mike Pratt opted to go to a “Box and One” defense against the Pacer junior to open the second half. With four Tigers playing a zone, Adam Behlmer chased Kyle Green around the court in an attempt deny his shots.

That left the inside vulnerable, and Brennan Bragg got free and scored to open the third period, pushing the Pacers back in front. The Tigers, meanwhile, were shooting themselves in the foot from the freethrow line, where they missed seven attempts in a row at one point – managing to go just 4-for-13 from the line in the game.

Doug Seymour kept the Tigers close with a bucket, but that was matched by an inside score from Daniel Welch. After Doug Seymour scored again, Switzerland County went back inside, this time with Brennan Bragg doing the damage. Kyle Green then made a freethrow to stretch the lead to two, but a basket by Adam Behlmer tied the game at 27-27 with 5:15 to play.

Daniel Welch scored inside to retake the lead for Switzerland County, but Lawrenceburg followed that up with a run of six straight points to move out to a four-point lead. Pacer sophomore Travis Tackett then followed a missed shot with a basket, and the Pacers seemed to have momentum swinging in their favor.

Then – catastrophe struck.

After Lawrenceburg’s Michael Gloss scored to make the Tiger lead four points; Kyle Green raced upcourt and to the basket, where he ended up in a pile of Lawrenceburg players with just 55-seconds to play in the quarter.

As he got up from the floor, he had trouble putting weight on his left ankle, and limped off the floor with assistance from teammate Travis Tackett. He and a trainer from Southwestern immediately headed to the Switzerland County lockerroom.

Down by four, the Pacers kept their composure and got a freethrow from Mark Sharp in the closing seconds to make the score 35-32 in favor of the Tigers heading into the final stanza.

With Kyle Green perched on the ticket stand getting his ankle wrapped, the Tigers opened the final period with a run of five straight points to open up a 40-32 advantage – the largest lead of the night. Travis Tackett scored to draw back within six, but Sean Snider got free inside to push the lead back to eight.

Switzerland County fans then saw what they had been hoping for – as Kyle Green jogged back to courtside with 4:45 to play in the contest – his ankle heavily taped. Coach Brian Bowen didn’t even allow his forward to sit down, sending him directly to the scorer’s table and into the game.

Kyle Green’s return came at a good time, as reserve senior guard Michael Haas also came up limping on a bad ankle. Heading to the bench, he would not return to the contest.

The return of one of their leaders seemed to spark the Pacers, who responded with a basket by Brennan Bragg and a three-pointer by Mark Sharp to cut the lead down to three and force the Tigers into a timeout. A pair of freethrows by Jim Faehr then extended the lead back to five points; and with 1:27 to play Switzerland County was put into the bonus when Lawrenceburg’s Sean Powell committed his team’s seventh personal foul – sending Mark Sharp to the line for the one and one.

Freethrow shooting has been has been a fickle mistress for the Pacers this year, as Switzerland County has seen both horrible and outstanding shooting nights from the line. With less than two minutes to play, it seemed ironic that the season could come down to making freethrows.

It seemed as though fate would deal Switzerland County a fatal blow when Mark Sharp’s first attempt rimmed out, but Brennan Bragg was right there for the offensive rebound, and he was fouled on the put back by Sean Snider. Again the Pacers stumbled at the line, as Brennan Bragg missed the first attempt before converting the second, moving the Pacers back to within four.

Lawrenceburg then called a timeout with a minute left on the clock, and came out of the break looking to kill the clock. Sean Snider then found a path to the basket, and made the shot while being fouled by Kyle Green. With the lead now at six points, again the Tigers stumbled, as Sean Snider missed the opportunity for the three-point play, and Brennan Bragg grabbed yet another huge rebound.

After a Pacer timeout, Switzerland County poured the ball inside again, and this time Kyle Green was fouled on his shot attempt, taking him to the freethrow line for a pair of attempts. But the conference’s ninth best freethrow shooter missed on the first attempt and then made the second, and Lawrenceburg again had possession of the ball and a five point lead with just seconds remaining.

The Pacers then fouled Adam Behlmer, who accommodated the Pacers by missing the second half of his one and one attempt, and with 25-seconds to play Switzerland County raced upcourt down by six.

Sophomore Travis Tackett then drained a huge three-pointer with 14-seconds left to draw the Pacers to within three; and Coach Bowen called a timeout to set up his defense for a steal or a foul.

The Tigers, however, had different plans, and when Jim Faehr broke long and was hit in stride with a pass for an easy layup; the Tigers celebrated and the Pacers walked off the court and away from their season on the short end of a 49-44 score.

It was somewhat fitting that as players and fans filed out of the Southwestern gym, everyone was greeted by a snow shower that covered cars and made walking in the parking lot a little hazardous.

Like the unpredictable nature of the weather, the Switzerland County season had come to a sudden and abrupt end.

The Pacers were led by Brennan Bragg, who had a monster night as he recorded a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds. He also had three blocked shots in the game.

Kyle Green battled through his injury to also post 11 points in the game, and he also had two assists and two steals.

Mark Sharp never left the court during Tuesday’s game, playing all 32 minutes, and he finished with seven points, four rebounds, and five assists. Travis Tackett also had seven points in the game; while both Daniel Welch and Brandon Otter finished with four points each.

Devon Armstrong didn’t score in the game, but did play an important role, as he dished out five assists and also had two steals.

Jim Faehr led the Tigers with 11 points; while Sean Powell and Sean Snider each finished in double figures with 10.

Neither team did themselves any favors from the freethrow line, as Switzerland County was 5-for-10 for 50-percent; while Lawrenceburg won the game in spite of shooting just 4-for-13 at the stripe for 30.8-percent. The Pacers committed 21 turnovers while the Tigers turned the ball over 16 times; and Lawrenceburg also outrebounded Switzerland County by a 36-32 count.