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Pacers join 3 others making rare trip to regional
, Courier Sportswriter
Friday, March 08, 2013 10:00 AM
Switzerland County celebrates its Class 2A Sectional win Saturday night at South Ripley. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Switzerland County head coach B.J. McAlister guided the Pacers to their first sectional title since 2006. Now 18-5, Switzerland meets No. 13 Perry Central (21-3) in the opening game of the Southridge Regional on Saturday. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
You'll have to excuse folks at this week's Class 2A regional if they act like they have never been there before. It most cases, they may never have.
It's been seven long years since Switzerland County made a trip to the boys basketball regional but that's nothing compared the Pacers' three opponents this weekend at Southridge High School.
Switzerland County last won a sectional title in 2006 while the Pacers' opponent, Perry Central, hasn't cut down a net since 1997. The other semifinal features a pair of teams that haven't advanced to a regional since the 1980s - 1986 for Clarksville and 1982 for Linton-Stockton.
As for winning a regional? Forget about it. Linton's championship in 1946 is the only one among the quartet.
It's going to be uncharted waters for all four teams involved, but that doesn't mean the regional lacks talent. In fact, the aggregate .839 winning percentage is the best among the four Class 2A regionals in the state.
All but Switzerland County received votes in the final Associated Press poll and each has at least 18 wins. Combined, the four teams have been beaten only 15 times.
For Switzerland County, it's more than just a chance to win the school's first regional championship. The Pacers have never won a boys basketball game beyond the sectional level and the softball team's success two out of the last three years represents the only regional titles in the school's history.
But the Pacers (18-5) appear as ready as any team to cut down the nets a second consecutive week. Switzerland hasn't lost since Jan. 12, a span of 10-straight, and survived a pair of gutsy battles to win the sectional title.
"I like the fact that we're going in under the radar," said junior Austin Clark. "I don't think people thought we would win the sectional, either. I think it gives us an advantage."
If Switzerland beats 13th-ranked Perry Central (21-3) in the morning semifinal, Clark most likely will be a big factor. The 6-foot-6 junior leads the Pacers in scoring at 17.9 points per game and is equally adept in roaming the paint and the perimeter.
But while Clark is the only Pacer averaging in double figures, the team is not reliant on one player. Junior Chase Ritch (9.7 points per game) set a school record with nine 3-pointers in a single game earlier this season while strong point guard Trevor Smith (8.8 points) led Switzerland with 15 points in the sectional championship win over North Decatur.
Then there is the Pacers' size. Switzerland has three players standing 6-foot-6 and a fourth at 6-foot-5, an unusual collection for a Class 2A school. The quartet, Clark, Alex Curran, T.J. White and Bob Tressler, are also athletic with only Curran suiting up as a pure post player.
Switzerland head coach B.J. McAlister, himself a former high school post player for the Pacers, knows the value of size. But he also knows that his team will need strong play from its guards if it wants to advance.
"As a staff we sat down a couple of weeks ago and asked how would we defend us if we had to," McAlister said. "And we decided that trying to take Austin and Chase out was the best option ... but Trevor hit some big shots, Braden Burk had a couple of big shots. That's what we're going to need."
The Perry Central team Switzerland will face on Saturday is athletic and quick at every position, a level of athleticism the Pacers haven't faced all season.
But while the two teams appear to be different in style, their results are nearly the same. The two are both allowing just under 49 points per game while averaging in the 60s themselves. They have no common opponents.
Game two features eighth-ranked Clarksville (18-5) against No. 10 Linton-Stockton (21-3). While Clarksville has the worst record of the four, the Generals are ranked the highest in the Sagarin Ratings and could be the tourney favorite.
The sectional kicks off with Switzerland County and Perry Central at 11 a.m. EDT with Clarksville and Linton-Stockton to follow. The championship is set for 8:30 p.m. EDT.
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