Heading into Saturday night’s ORVC showdown with Milan, everyone on both teams and fans of both squads knew one truth – throw out the records, because it was going to be a war.
And a physical test for both teams it was, and at the end of the battle Switzerland County gained control of the conference race with a 58-53 win over the Indians.
The physical battle began early, with Milan’s Kyle Meyer made a pair of freethrows, but those would be the only points that the Indians would score in the entire first quarter, shut down by a ferocious Switzerland County defense.
The Pacer offense didn’t get much more offense, but it was enough, getting nine points over the first eight minutes.
Ben Curran opened the scoring with a basket, and T.J. White followed that with an inside bucket, a freethrow, and another basket to score five straight points. Austin Clark closed the scoring with an inside bucket, and the first quarter closed with the Pacers holding a 9-2 advantage.
The offenses got going a bit more in the second quarter, but the defenses still flexed their muscle heading towards halftime.
The Pacers got 13 points in the period, with Austin Clark accounting for seven of those. Tyler Gabbard had a big three-pointer in the stanza; as did Chase Ritch, and the strong Switzerland County inside-outside game was kicking in.
Milan stayed close on the strength of three-point shooting by Logan Alloway, but the Indians couldn’t get closer than 10 points, and the half ended with the Pacers holding a 22-12 lead.
The advantage continued to grow after halftime, as the Pacers extended their lead to as many as 19 points in the quarter.
Austin Clark opened the scoring with a three-pointer, and Tyler Gabbard followed that with a three-pointer. Austin Clark then opened up a big lead with his second three-pointer in the first three minutes of the stanza.
Milan tried to right itself with a three-pointer from Jon Spurlock, but again the ball went inside to Austin Clark for another basket. The Indians got a basket from Logan Karsteter and a two freethrows from Logan Alloway to get within 14; but Ben Curran followed that with a power drive to the bucket for a lay up.
Milan’s Jon Spurlock got another three-pointer, and Switzerland County then closed the quarter with a basket by Riley Phagan and a jumper from Chase Ritch to lead 41-24 with just eight minutes left.
But it would be a harrowing eight minutes.
With the Pacers firmly in control, Ben Curran opened the final quarter with a bucket, but Jon Spurlock hit a jumper to give the Indians some hope
That hope gained momentum seconds later, as Austin Clark picked up his fourth foul of the contest, putting him on the bench next to head coach B.J. McAlister.
But Riley Phagan hit a jumper moments after that, and things seemed to still be in control.
Then things began to spin out of control.
Milan got a basket from Logan Karsteter and a jumper form Logan Alloway and then a three-point play from Logan Karsteter to get to within 10.
Coach McAlister called a timeout and reinserted Austin Clark into the game, but the Indians quickly got another basket from Logan Alloway. Up by eight, the Pacers went back inside to Austin Clark, and the senior was fouled attempting a shot, and after he made one of the freethrows, he went back to the protection of the bench.
After a Switzerland County defensive stop, back came Austin Clark, and again the ball made its way back inside to him – and again he drew the foul on his way to the basket. This time he made both freethrows before again heading back to the bench.
Another defensive stop brought Austin Clark back into the game and again he was fouled, but this time in the one-and-bonus he didn’t convert the freethrow, but T.J. White grabbed the rebound and attempted to get the ball back outside to run some time.
That turned into a mosh pit, as nearly every player on the floor ended up in a big pile in the Switzerland County freethrow lane, trying to gain possession of the ball.
With 2:55 to play, the officials raced in blowing their whistles, and when they untangled the pile of players, they assessed a foul on Austin Clark, his fifth.
That sent the centerpiece of the Pacer offense to the bench for the remainder of the contest, and Milan seized the opportunity.
Two straight baskets by Logan Karsteter narrowed the gap to eight; and Milan looked to get even closer at the 1:46 mark, but Riley Phagan drew a huge charging foul, giving the ball back to the Pacers.
After Kollin Hayes couldn’t convert at the freethrow line, the Indians got a basket from Cooper Wade to draw within six.
Riley Phagan made a big basket to stem the tide, but Milan came right back with a freethrow from Gavin Detraz and a couple of freethrows from Logan Alloway.
Switzerland County found itself clinging to a 49-46 lead with 38-second to play.
Kollin Hayes then calmly converted two freethrows to again extend the lead; but Logan Alloway drilled a long three-pointer, again bringing the deficit down to four.
From there the freethrows took over, with T.J. White making two; Ben Curran making one; and Riley Phagan making two. Milan got a pair of freethrows from Logan Alloway and a basket from Gavin Detraz, but at the buzzer the Pacers had escaped with a 58-53 win.
The win pushed the Pacers to the top of the conference standings; and the state is also taking notice, as this week’s Class 2A standing show the Pacers as the 18th ranked squad in Indiana.
In the junior varsity game, Switzerland County defeated Milan by a score of 46-36.
Hunter Hayes was the leading scorer with 14 points; but the offense was fueled by Caleb Furnish, who made four three-pointers on his way to 12 points. Kollin Hayes had seven points; Justin Green added five points; and Dakota Fuller had four points.
Zach Whitaker and Brody Splain each had two points in the contest.