A big fourth quarter and great leadership from two senior starters led the way for the Switzerland County Pacer boys varsity basketball team to defeat Rising Sun in the consolation game on Saturday night in the Rivertown Classic.
Seniors Austin South and Kyle Whitham have been the leaders on and off of the floor for the Pacers all year, and that leadership showed on Saturday night, as South finished with 27 points and Whitham added 22 to push the Pacers to the win. Sophomore Damian Breeck rode an incredibly hot second quarter to finish with 16 points, making it three Pacers in double figures.
Still, with those three fueling the run, Switzerland County had to make several charges against a stout Shiner squad that also saw key play.
Rising Sun got off to a hot start, scoring the first eight points of the contest on two baskets by Nick Koons, a bucket from Trenton Gridley, and a basket by Brent Turner.
Switzerland County got on the board with a basket by Tyler Konkle; but the Shiners came right back with buckets by Gridley and Koons to post a 12-2 lead. South scored to snap that run; but Turner followed that with two freethrows, making the score 14-4 in favor of the Shiners with 3:13 to play in the opening period.
The Pacers responded, getting a basket by South, an inside basket by Konkle, and two freethrows by South to pull back to within four; but Rising Sun came right back with baskets by Gridley and Wesley Rider to go back up by eight with 21 seconds left.
Switzerland County wasn’t done, as Whitham made a freethrow and South drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 18-14 in favor of the Shiners after an exciting first period.
The Pacers kept rolling as the second quarter got underway, getting a freethrow from Konkle and a basket inside by Whitham to close to within one. Jacob Bovard scored for Rising Sun; but South came right back with two freethrows, keeping the margin a single point.
Then it was time for the Shiners to make a run, getting a three-pointer from Turner and a three-point play by Gridley to again make the margin seven points. Switzerland County then countered, with Breeck hitting a field goal and a three-pointer; while Whitham continued his strong play with an inside bucket that tied the game at 26-26 with 2:55 to go until the half.
The Shiners got a freethrow from Jason McClellan; but the Pacers took their first lead of the night when Breeck connected on a three-pointer. That didn’t last long, as Noah Pflum tied the game with a jumper for the Shiners; but South hit a freethrow and both Breeck and South hit three-pointers, and with a minute to go, the Pacers held a 36-29 lead. McClellan closed the scoring with a field goal for the Shiners, and the two teams went to the halftime break with Switzerland County holding a 36-31 lead.
The back and forth continued after halftime, was Whitham opened the scoring with a freethrow; but McClellan answered that with four straight points. Breeck hit another three-pointer; but Bovard matched that with a trey. Switzerland County then got four straight points, including a three-pointer by South; and after Rising Sun scored to stop that streak, another three by South pushed the Pacers to a seven-point advantage. Gridley scored for Rising Sun; and a big moment in the contest came moments later, when after Whitham missed a freethrow, Cade Rider soared in and grabbed the offensive rebound, which led to another bucket by South and keeping the lead at seven.
That’s when the Shiners made another run, getting an inside bucket by Gridley; a traditional three-point play by Bovard, and a three-pointer by Koons to suddenly catapult Rising Sun into a 50-49 lead with 23-seconds left. Then it was time for the Pacers to respond, and Justin Chatham connected on a basket at the buzzer, giving Switzerland County a 51-50 lead after three fast-paced periods.
The fourth quarter would be a big one for the Pacers, and much of Switzerland County’s damage would come at the freethrow line. With the referees calling a tight, close contest in the fourth – much to the frustration of fans on both sides – Switzerland County would go to the freethrow line 17 times in the final eight minutes, making 15 of those to seal the win. Whitham was particularly clutch at the charity stripe in the fourth, as he went 7-for-9. Rider was a perfect 4-for-4 at the line in the quarter; and South was also 4-for-4 as Rising Sun tried to create turnover in an effort to get back into the game. For the game, Switzerland County was 24-for-33 from the freethrow line; while Rising Sun was 6-for-11 in the fourth quarter and 13-for-19 for the contest.
That 11 point difference played a big role in the final score, as the Pacers won by 14.
Switzerland County had 27 points in that fourth quarter, 15 of those from the freethrow line; and Whitham, South, and Breeck also had buckets as the Pacers melted the clock away to secure the win.
Along with the Big Three for the Pacers, Konkle had seven points in the game; Rider finished with four points; and Chatham added two.
Rising Sun had spectacular balance, with five players in double figures. The Shiners were led by Gridley with 15 points; McClellan with 12 points; Koons had 11; and Bovard and Turner each had 10. Pflum had four points; and Rider contributed two.
For their efforts, both South and Whitham earned spots on the All Tournament team.
Switzerland County now heads into the meat of its schedule, starting with a home game tomorrow (Friday) night against Southwestern. The homestand continues on Saturday as South Ripley comes to town; and then its a road game against Rising Sun on Friday night, January 19th.