The Switzerland County Pacers captured their first Sectional championship in seven years on Saturday night after withstanding a valiant battle from North Decatur.
The Pacers and Chargers played a game splintered with offensive runs and defensive stands, but a big fourth quarter by Switzerland County put the Pacers into this Saturday’s Southridge Regional.
Switzerland County opened fast, getting five straight points from Austin Clark on a three-pointer and an inside basket; and after the Chargers got on the board with a basket from Kevin Geis, the Pacers got a freethrow and a basket from Trevor Smith to take an 8-2 lead three minutes in/
North Decatur responded with a three pointer and a freethrow from John Hammersmith; but Chase Ritch made a three pointer of his own to keep the lead at five.
North Decatur made a freethrow, but the Pacer offense kept rolling with another bucket from Austin Clark. John Hammersmith scored again for the Chargers, and the quarter closed with a last-second baseline jumper from Clint Swanson that gave Switzerland County a 15-9 lead.
North Decatur didn’t back away, opening the second quarter with a basket from John Hammersmith.
Switzerland County widened its lead to eight on baskets by Trevor Smith and Austin Clark; but a three-point play and a basket by John Hammersmith and a three-pointer by Zach Johnson suddenly tied the game at 19-19 with 2:41 to go in the half.
Alex Curran scored inside to again put the Pacers in front; but Zach Johnson came right back with a jumper to again tie the game.
Moments later, Kevin Geis hit a runner, and the second quarter ended with North Decatur out in front, 23-21.
Switzerland County momentarily steadied the ship as the third quarter opened, getting a three-point play from Austin Clark to retake the lead; but the second half would belong to North Decatur’s John Hammersmith, who at times seemed to be completely unstoppable.
The Chargers would score 29 points in the second half, and John Hammersmith would have 19 of those, and at times it seemed like he was the only North Decatur on the offensive end of the floor.
The Pacers, however, had its own superstar in Austin Clark, and he was joined in pursuit of the sectional crown by a great supporting cast of teammates.
Austin Clark scored again and was fouled in the process; and when he missed the freethrow, Alex Curran grabbed the rebound for a put back basket when gave the Pacers a three point lead.
North Decatur responded with a basket from Zach Johnson and a couple of freethrows from John Hammersmith which gave the Chargers the lead back; but a key moment in the contest came seconds later when Trevor Smith made a huge three-pointer.
John Hammersmith followed that with a traditional three points play, but Alex Curran got free inside and eased the Pacers back in front. Moments later John Hammersmith made two more freethrows, and it looked like the tourney title was going to go down to the wire.
The Pacers made a mini-run, getting a three-pointer from Braden Burk and a basket on the baseline from Bob Tressler to take a four point lead, but the quarter ended with John Hammersmith scoring again, which made the score 38-36 with just eight minutes to play.
It would be the fourth quarter where Switzerland County would flex its offensive muscle and claim the championship.
Austin Clark started the quarter off with a three-pointers; and moments later Clint Swanson raced to the bucket and was fouled as the shot found the range. The resulting freethrow made it a three-point play, and extended the Pacer lead up to eight, 44-36.
The advantage grew to double figures moments later on a basket from Trevor Smith; and after John Hammersmith scored again for the Chargers, another Austin Clark bucket kept the lead at 10.
Jason Kirchhoff made a three-pointer that brought the lead down to seven; but Chase Ritch followed that with a floater. John Hammersmith converted a pair of freethrows after that, and Alex Curran matched that with a layup to keep the lead at a comfortable distance.
Jason Kirchhoff scored, and that was trumped by Alex Curran again; and after John Hammersmith scored; the cap was sealed on the victory when Braden Burk drilled a three-pointer, and with less than two minutes to play, the celebration was on.
John Hammersmith made one more basket – his 32nd points of the night – before the North Decatur bench was cleared; and the game closed with Trevor Smith making five freethrows.
The final horn sounded and the Pacers celebrated a 62-52 Sectional title.
Trevor Smith led the Switzerland County effort with 15 points; Austin Clark finished with 14; and Alex Curran made it three Pacers in double figures when he added 10.
Braden Burk had nine points; Chase Ritch had five; and Bob Tressler contributed two points.
John Hammersmith had 32 points to lead all scorers; while Zach Johnson had seven points for the Chargers, who closed their season with a record of 6-17.
Switzerland County raised its record to 18-4 overall with the sectional title win; and now advance to the Southridge Regional where they will play the Perry Central Commodores in the first game this Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.