A varsity basketball game is 32 minutes long, broken down into four eight-minute quarters. On Thursday night, Switzerland County traveled to Aurora for the opening round of the Rivertown Classic against host South Dearborn; and for 21 of those minutes, battled toe-to-toe with the Knights.
With three minutes remaining in the third period, Switzerland County held a five-point lead, 39-34, over South Dearborn; but the Knights would use those final 11 minutes to outscore Coach Adam Dennis’s troops by a 27-12 count, turning a five-point deficit into a 10-point win, 61-51.
Both teams are familiar with each other, having played in the Jefferson County Invitational Tournament just prior to Christmas – a game that the Pacers won, 48-45.
Jon Bruner opened the scoring in the game with an inside shot; but that was matched by a jumper from Austin South. South Dearborn responded with buckets from Tyler Morehead and Bruner, but the Pacers answered right back, getting two freethrows from Kyle Whitham. South Dearborn then responded, getting two straight baskets to push the early lead out to six points; but again Whitham stopped the run with a basket.
With just over two minutes left in the opening quarter, the Knights got a three-pointer by Alex Shackleford that made the score 13-6; but Switzerland County closed the quarter with a run, as South converted two freethrows; Justin Chatham added a three-pointer; and Whitham scored at the horn to knot the game at 13-13 after eight minutes of play.
Switzerland County took the lead as the second period opened on a three-pointer by South; but the Knights got baskets from Morehead and Bruner to reclaim the advantage. Damian Breeck then got a big rebound bucket for the Pacers; but again Switzerland County couldn’t get key defensive stops, as John Tedesco and Bruner scored.
The Pacers weren’t going quietly, and South’s second three-pointer of the period tied the game at 21-21. After South Dearborn scored again, Chatham converted a steal into a three-point play, and South followed that with a basket that gave Switzerland County a three-point lead with just under three minutes to play in the half.
South Dearborn roared back, as Morehead closed the first half with a run of six straight points – including a buzzer-beater, that gave the Knights a 29-26 advantage heading into the break.
The Pacers quickly erased that deficit as the third quarter got underway, with Whitham scoring two straight times; but South Dearborn then got a three-pointer from Isaiah Jefferson. South matched that with his third three-pointer of the contest, and Whitham followed that with another power move inside for a bucket. Tristan Dailey scored for the Knights; but the Pacers countered with baskets by South and Tyler Konkle, and with three minutes to play in the third, Switzerland County held a 39-34 lead.
But that’s when things began to turn.
South Dearborn finished with third period on a run of eight straight points, including a short jumper from center Payton Sipple as the period closed, and after three, the Knights held a 42-39 advantage.
Jefferson opened the final stanza with a basket that pushed the lead up to five; but Cade Rider converted a freethrow that kept the Pacers close. The Knights then had a run of six straight, including two freethrows by Charlie Tedesco, a field goal by John Tedesco, and another bucket by Sipple. Suddenly, with five minutes to play, the Pacers found themselves down 10, 50-40.
South tried to bring the Pacers back, hitting his fourth three-pointer of the game; but again the Knights responded, getting baskets from Charlie Tedesco and Sipple to hold an 11-point lead with two minutes to go.
Whitham answered, converting a traditional three-point play; but the Pacers were in foul trouble, and as Switzerland County scrambled to try and force turnovers, South Dearborn ended up spending the majority of the remainder of the contest at the freethrow line.
John Tedesco converted three of five opportunities that again pushed the lead back to 11; but Whitham wouldn’t let things go quietly, hitting a three-pointer that again gave the Pacers life. John Tedesco went back to the line and converted two more attempts; and again Whitham matched those; but Morehead’s two charities in the closing seconds sealed the win for South Dearborn by a 10-point margin, 61-51.
The loss put the Pacers into the consolation round of the tournament against Rising Sun, while the Knights advanced to take on Lawrenceburg for the tournament title. Lawrenceburg defeated Rising Sun 73-56 in the tourney’s other semifinal.
South and Whitham led the way offensively for Switzerland County, with each senior accounting for 20 points. South did damage from outside with four three-pointers; while Whitham was busy in the second half, accounting for 14 of the Pacers’ 25 points – including eight of 12 in the final quarter.
Chatham finished with six points; Konkle and Breeck each had two; and Rider added one.
South Dearborn was led by Morehead with 14 points – 12 of those in the first half; while John Tedesco was also in double figures with 11. Bruner had eight, all in the first half; Charlie Tedesco had six, as did Sipple.