The Switzerland County boys varsity basketball team defended its Jefferson County Invitational Tournament title last Thursday night – it just took 21 years for it to happen.
The JCIT, long a staple of holiday tournaments, was last played in January of 1995, with the Pacers earning the championship with a 69-55 win over Southwestern. In that game, Michael Gault was the leading scorer with 19 points; Kent Works had 18 points; and Jason Wiesmann had 14 points
To put it in perspective, Switzerland County head coach Adam Dennis was playing for the sixth grade Pacer team at the time; while assistant coaches Kyle Green and Mitch Hobson were both four years old.
But last Thursday, with Southwestern again the championship game foe, Switzerland County didn’t waste any time, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back, winning the title with a 65-39 victory over the Rebels.
“I was very pleased with our team effort,” Coach Dennis said. “We got senior leadership, with Kollin, Hunter, and Justin all in double figures; our defense played great again; and it was just an entire team effort. Our kids did a great job with the scouting reports getting ready for the tournament, and they’ve done a great job overall getting ready for this season. I’m very proud of them.”
On Thursday night, Switzerland County raced out to a 17-6 lead after the first quarter, with Hunter Hayes doing a lot of damage inside, scoring eight points.
Kollin Hayes was continuing his outstanding play on the outside, drilling a pair of three-pointers in the first eight minute span for six points; and Casper Stow added the other three on a field goal and a freethrow.
Up by 11, Switzerland County continued to build its lead heading into halftime, outscoring the Rebels by a 16-9 count to swell the lead to 33-15 at the break.
Inside play again was big for the Pacers, as this time it was Justin Green controlling things in the paint. The senior had six points in the stanza; and Austin South was again impressive off of the bench, accounting for five points – a field goal and a three-pointer – while Kollin Hayes hit his third three-pointer of the half. Kyle Whitham contributed a basket; and the Pacers had nearly enough points at the half to win the game.
Switzerland County continued to pull away after the halftime break, outscoring Southwestern 17-11 and widening the lead to 24, nearly doubling the Rebels total, 50-26.
The inside duo of Hunter Hayes and Green continued to feast in the paint, with Green scoring six more points and Hayes adding four more. Kollin Hayes hit his fourth three-pointer; Dakota Fuller added two freethrows; and South had another basket.
With a quarter to play and the championship no longer in doubt, the Pacers and the Rebels played a relatively close final quarter, with Switzerland County scoring 15 points and Southwestern adding 13.
Kollin Hayes and Hunter Hayes each had four points before they left so the bench could get some playing time; and Green also had three more. Freshman Damian Breeck added the other four points; and as the final buzzer sounded, Switzerland County celebrated a JCIT title by a final score of 65-39.
Kollin Hayes had 16 points to earn Most Valuable Player honors in the tournament; while Hunter Hayes with 16 points and Green with 15 points each earned spots on the All Tournament Team.
South had seven points in the championship game; with Breeck finishing with four; Stow had three; and Fuller and Whitham had two each.
Southwestern was led by Tryston Wheatley with 13 points; while Tyler Kramer had 12.
Along with the title, the win was Switzerland County’s fifth in a row, a number also not lost on the coach.
“It’s important because we haven’t won five games in a row since I became the head coach,” Dennis said. “I knew we were going to have a great year, a winning year, and the hard work that our guys have put in and keep putting in proves that. I’m very proud of every player on this team.”
And, with the Rivertown Classic on the horizon next week; the Pacers are faced with another test tonight (Thursday) when Switzerland County travels to Class 4A Seymour to take on the Owls (1-5).
“I like our schedule,” Dennis said. “We play some pretty strong teams, bigger schools, but that just helps us get ready for the tournament at the end of the season. I like where our team is right now.”