The Switzerland County Pacer varsity boys basketball team won the seventh Sectional title in school history on Saturday night, and as the team prepares to travel to Huntingburg, Indiana this Saturday for the Southridge Regional, the entire community has been energized.
The Pacers advanced with a 62-52 win over North Decatur in the final of the South Ripley Sectional, and now play Perry Central (21-3) in Saturday's first game, which will get underway at 11 a.m. There has been some confusion as to the start time, because Perry Central High School is on Central Time and therefore an hour behind Switzerland County; but Huntingburg is on the same time as Switzerland County - so the 11 a.m. start time is correct.
One change is that the championship game of the Regional, which will pit the two winners of the afternoon games on Saturday, will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, 30 minutes later than originally stated.
The other game on Saturday morning will feature Clarksville and Linton-Stockton at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Tickets for the Regional are now on sale in the office at the high school, and athletic director David Todd said that tickets will remain on sale until noon tomorrow (Friday). Tickets will also be available at the door on Saturday.
The party didn't end on Saturday night after everyone left South Ripley High School, as a large number of students and adults assembled in the Switzerland County High School gym for a late night celebration and pep session. Players Tyler Queen and Austin Clark spoke to the fans and expressed their appreciation for all of the support - and put everyone on notice that they aren't done yet.
"We aren't going to the Regional just to play in it," Tyler Queen said. "We're going to win it and bring it home for all of you."
"This is great," Austin Clark smiled. "We are ready to go and we'll be ready for the Regional. I just want to thank everyone for all of the support you've given us all year."
The highlight of the pep session was the pay off of a wager that varsity assistant Adam Dennis had made with the club. A Sectional championship meant that Coach Dennis would allow team members to shave his head - and that's just what happened.
After Saturday's win, Switzerland County coach B.J. McAlister said that he and his coaching staff have been doing some "self scouting" in an effort to fine tune the team for tournament play.
"About three weeks ago we sat down as a staff and said, 'how would we guard us if we had to play tomorrow? What's one thing we would try to do to try and throw a wrinkle at us?', Coach McAlister said. "We thought teams would try and take away Austin (Clark) and Chase (Ritch), but we have tremendous players on this team along with those two, and everyone is stepping up right now."
But, with his first Sectional title as a coach under his belt, the Pacer mentor allowed himself a few 'non coaching' moments.
"It's a great feeling," B.J. McAlister said. "I'm so happy for our seniors and our kids and our community. I'm just really happy to be a Pacer for life. There's nothing better than to be up there and cut that net down when you're the head coach."
One of the key components of the entire season was the stellar play and leadership of senior Trevor Smith. Leading the team in scoring in Saturday night's finale, he and his fellow seniors will get to don the Pacer uniform again this Saturday.
"I feel great. It's the best feeling of my life," Trevor Smith said after the game. "It's a great feeling. It crossed my mind about losing at one point, but we weren't going to let that happen. Losing wasn't in our vocabulary tonight."
He also reflected on the closeness of the squad - not just a team, but a family.
"This team's grown throughout the year," he said. "We've had our ups and we've had our downs, but in the end, we're all brothers."
This Band of Brothers will now look to make school history this Saturday, as no boys varsity basketball team in Switzerland County school history has ever won a Regional game.
For more in the Sectional games with Austin and North Decatur, see pages A-6 and A-7 of today's edition; and a special full color poster can be found on page A-8.