Pacers open Sectional play versus Lawrenceburg

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Switzerland County will open play in the Class 2A Sectional Tournament this Tuesday night against a familiar foe – Lawrenceburg – in a tourney that promises to be filled with great basketball action.

Lawrenceburg and Switzerland County met on February 7th, with the Tigers handing the Pacers a 66-55 loss. But Switzerland County played that night without injured starting center Brennan Bragg, and also saw key senior reserve Daniel Welch limited by the flu.

Brennan Bragg and Daniel Welch are expected to be at full strength on Tuesday, but Coach Brian Bowen and his staff will still be dealing with a short hand – as junior starting forward Clay Meyer is gone for the year with a broken ankle.

Still, the Pacer mentor sees some optimism in the coming tourney.

“I think there are some things we can do differently to get passed them,” Coach Bowen said. “Bragg is back, but we’ve lost Meyer and that hurts; but Kyle Green only had seven points in that game and we’ll be playing them on a neutral court, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

This year’s tournament will be played at Southwestern, and the Switzerland County-Lawrenceburg game is the only game set for Tuesday night. It will begin at 7 p.m. The Pacers come into tourney play with a record of 12-7 and still have to play Madison tomorrow (Friday) night; while Lawrenceburg is 16-3 with a game tomorrow against Oldenburg Academy.

On Wednesday, February 27th, there will be a pair of games, with North Decatur (11-8) and Hauser (17-2) squaring off at 6 p.m.; followed by Southwestern (10-11) and Milan (0-17) in the second game.

On Friday, February 29th, the winner of the Switzerland County-Lawrenceburg game will play South Ripley (8-11) at 6 p.m.; followed by the winners of Wednesday’s two games at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s semifinal winners will then meet for the Sectional championship on Saturday, March 1st, at 7 p.m.

In sizing up the tournament, Brian Bowen sees two state-ranked teams in the Pacers’ path next week – Hauser is ranked #4 in Class 2A; while Lawrenceburg, the defending sectional champions, are #8 in this week’s poll.

“I think a lot of people say that Hauser’s probably the favorite going into the tournament,” Coach Bowen said. “At first I was a little weary of our draw, but after thinking about it, I like our draw.”

The Pacers have won five of seven coming into the Madison game, and the Pacer coach feels that his team is playing well as it heads to tournament action.

“We’ve had some stumbling blocks recently, but we’ve also played better competition,” the coach said. “I think it’s good that we played Lawrenceburg when we did, because we can go back and look at that game and see areas we can improve on.”

As for playing at Southwestern, Coach Bowen said that he thinks his Pacers shot “fairly well” when they played there – a 57-51 win on December 4th- but feels that it is an advantage to not have Lawrenceburg playing in its home gym.

“They aren’t going to be on their home rims, and that’s better for us,” the coach said.

Should the Pacers get by Lawrenceburg, waiting in the wings is heated rival South Ripley, a team that Switzerland County has defeated twice this season – but that makes the Pacer coaching staff very wary.

“South Ripley is playing much better,” Brian Bowen said. “They play a very difficult schedule. Right before we played them the last time, they took a very good Batesville (18-2) team to overtime before they lost. Scott (Holdsworth, the South Ripley coach) always does a good job, so they’ll be ready to go come Sectional time.”

Pacer fans are hoping that South Ripley is ready to go sooner than that. The winners of four straight games, the Raiders finish off their regular season tomorrow (Friday) night by hosting Jac-Cen-Del. If South Ripley wins that game, Switzerland County and Jac-Cen-Del will tie for the conference championship.

Hauser appears to have a clear path to the final on the other side of the bracket, as the Jets have already defeated North Decatur twice, and the Chargers are the only other team on that side of the bracket with a winning record.

Southwestern could climb to .500 with a win over winless Milan on Wednesday night, which would make the Rebels 11-11.

As for the 12-7 Pacers, Coach Bowen is pleased with how his squad has played overall this year, and is anxious for tournament play to start.

“Our seniors have done a really good job in terms of leadership and accepting their roles on this team,” Brian Bowen said. “At times we went through some growing pains, but our senior leadership minimized that. For me, right now is a really exciting time. We’ve had the draw and we know who we’re going to play, so let’s get to it.”