To the Point for 3/9/06


SATURDAY IS AN EXCITING time for Switzerland County. For the fourth time in 40 years, the boys varsity basketball team has advanced past Sectional play and will participate this Saturday in the Regional.

That game is being held at Alexandria Monroe High School, and Switzerland County will take the floor for the opening game against Heritage Christian — a private school in Indianapolis.

If you’re a Switzerland County fan, you probably remember that Heritage Christian’s girls basketball team was the opponent of the Lady Pacers when Coach Wayne Ellegood’s squad advanced to the regional two years ago.

This year’s Lady Eagles team won yet another state championship in Class 2A, and the boys team is state-ranked as it attempts to complete the “daily double” of winning both titles in the same year.

But standing squarely in their way is Switzerland County, winners of 10 of their last 12 games; and firmly on a roll after three thrilling sectional victories.

As a reporter and a photographer, I have the opportunity to sit at floor level and observe many things during the course of a game.

I get to hear the players as they interact with each other; I get to hear the coaches as they lay out plans during timeouts; I get to talk with the referees at different points in the game; and I get to watch the fans from both teams as they cheer their players on to victory.

After tight games on Tuesday and Friday, Switzerland County fans were hoping that Saturday night’s championship game against Lawrenceburg would be a little easier.

It wasn’t.

The Tigers came out gunning, and after going up 5-0 to start the game, Switzerland County found itself down 10-5 very quickly — and as the first half kept going, Lawrenceburg players kept making outside shots and the Pacers kept hanging on.

The third quarter didn’t get a lot better, but the Pacers managed to stay close; and as the final period got underway; Lawrenceburg fans were the ones trying to figure out the best route to Alexandria.

Then it happened, and I don’t think I will ever forget it.

After battling closer and closer, at one point early in the fourth quarter they managed to make a defensive stand and headed up court down just one point with a chance to go ahead.

When the shot found the range, moving the Pacers out in front, I heard what sounded like an explosion go off inside the Southwestern gym.

It was the Pacer faithful.

After waiting for a reason to cheer since early in the game, when that shot found the mark, you could feel a release of tension from the huge Switzerland County crowd.

I noticed.

Lawrenceburg noticed.

You could see it on the faces of the Tiger players. After fighting to stay in front all game long, when the Switzerland County crowd erupted with that basket; it was like everyone knew that the game was over.

A quick steal led to another bucket; and another steal brought two more points — and just like that the Pacers were ahead by seven.

And the rest is history.

The final minutes were a combination of a coronation of the champions and a party in the stands, and people young and old came together to share their excitement and their enthusiasm.

When the final buzzer sounded, another eruption of emotion and cheering happened, as the players hugged each other and looked for their parents and friends in preparation of a celebration.

For eight seniors, it meant that they get to play at least one more game before their careers are finished. All will move on to be outstanding adults and successful in whatever they choose to do; but for that moment on Saturday night, they were the kings of the county.

In the aftermath of the game, the celebration went from the Southwestern gym back to Switzerland County. There was an impromptu parade through town before heading into a gym packed with fans late on Saturday night.

It was a fitting tribute to a great group of kids; and it was also great to see the satisfaction on the faces of the coaching staff for seeing the results of their hard work.

So it’s time to celebrate, Switzerland County, because you have an outstanding boys basketball team — and it’s made up of a group of truly outstanding young men.

See you in Alexandria.