POWER-UP: Switzerland County senior Austin Clark goes to the basket despite the defense being provided by Southwestern’s Jacob Adcock during Tuesday’s sectional opener in Hanover. Clark matched his jersey number with 24 points to lead the Pacers to the easy 69-37 win. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
POWER-UP: Switzerland County senior Austin Clark goes to the basket despite the defense being provided by Southwestern’s Jacob Adcock during Tuesday’s sectional opener in Hanover. Clark matched his jersey number with 24 points to lead the Pacers to the easy 69-37 win. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Switzerland County dashed any hopes Southwestern had for a monumental upset by scoring the first 16 points of the game and rolling to a 69-37 win in the opening round of the Class 2A Sectional No. 45 in Hanover on Tuesday.

The 11th-ranked Pacers got three 3-pointers from Chase Ritch and five points from Austin Clark on the inside during the crucial opening-game stretch. On the defensive end, Switzerland's zone forced the Rebels into long jump-shots that rarely found their mark.

Tristan Embs broke the run for the Rebels with a pair of free throws but the damage was done. Switzerland led 21-2 after the first quarter and never looked back on its way to the semifinals.

"We told our guys that they weren't going to come out, roll over and give it to us," Switzerland coach B.J. McAlister said. "We preached about focus all week. What happened last week, what happened the first two times that we played them was not indicative of what could happen tonight."

Switzerland (18-3) took the court just a few minutes after heavily favored Austin survived North Decatur 55-52 in the first game of the night and the Pacers were determined that the same thing was not going to happen to them.

Ritch took advantage of the extra attention Southwestern paid to Clark and his 6-foot-6 running mate T.J. White inside by bombing two 3-pointers from the same spot on the floor on the Pacers' first two possessions of the game.

The next time down the floor Clark powered his way to the basket and ended up with a 3-point play. On the next possession, Ritch hit a three from the other side of the floor and the rout was on.

"That's the great thing about our team. You have to pick your poison," McAlister said. "If you concentrate on Austin and T.J our shooters can pick you apart."

Southwestern (1-21), meanwhile, couldn't do anything against Switzerland County's zone. The Rebels were very methodical in the first quarter, passing the ball around the perimeter looking for an open shot that was never there. When Southwestern did take a shot, Clark or White quickly gobbled up the rebound to end the possession.

"To be patient you have to hit a shot every now and then," Southwestern coach Andy Firth said. "I thought that we started off fairly cold. We shot the ball hoping it would go in, not knowing it would go in. (The Pacers) are good, that's the bottom line. They're just good. They overpowered us at every position."

Embs' two free throws ended the early run but Clark added two more baskets and a free throw to put the Pacers ahead 21-2 after one. Four more points by Clark, a 3-pointer from Riley Phagan and a free throw from Nate Hunter pushed the lead to 29-2 before the Rebels picked up their first field goal, an Embs jumper with 5:50 left in the second quarter.

Switzerland led 40-8 at halftime. At that point Southwestern had more turnovers (nine) than points. Things got better for the Rebels in the second half and the two teams played even 29-29 the rest of the way.

McAlister reached into his bench early and often and played nine different players before the first quarter was over. Eventually 10 different Pacers scored, led by Clark's 24 and Ritch's 14. Freshman Hunter Hayes added nine points, all in the second half.

"We wanted to have a nine-man rotation for this game," McAlister said. "We got a chance to play a lot of players and the younger guys came in and played well."

Embs made the most of his last high school game by scoring 23 of Southwestern's 37 points. The only player returning with any experience from last year's squad, Embs was called upon this year to carry a heavy load and his coach was pleased with the way he performed.

"He got the ball where we wanted him to get it, he overpowered people at times which he can do. He's surprisingly strong," Firth said. "He played hard from whistle to whistle and that's the way he has played since his freshman year. I'm proud of him. He left it on the court and he has nothing to hang his head about. I think he played as well as he could the entire game."

In addition to Embs, the Rebels graduate center Matthew Schwartz, and will bring back the rest of a roster that includes 10 freshmen and only five juniors and sophomores. Firth said the experience his young group got this season will be invaluable down the road.

"Sometimes you don't see things when you live with it every day and there are times when we don't see improvement," Firth said. "But when you take a step back and look at where we were at the beginning, you see that we have gotten better. The future is bright for some of these kids. Some of these kids have gotten extremely better. If they come in and have a good summer, the sky's the limit.

"I left (the team) with this note: Extraordinary things don't happen with average effort," Firth added. "If these guys can give extraordinary efforts, I think extraordinary things can happen for them."

Switzerland County, which tied the school record for wins with the victory, advances to the sectional semifinals where it will face Ohio River Valley Conference rival Milan. The two teams battled in a close 59-53 decision won by the Pacers in early February and McAlister expects the same kind of game on Friday.

"They're a senior-laden team and they have put together a nice season," McAlister said. "They're extremely well-coached. (Josh Blankenship) does a great job. They'll do their homework and they'll know everything that we do. It'll be interesting to see what game-plan they put together for us and it'll be interesting to see how our game-plan works against them."



at Hanover

Opening Round



SWITZERLAND 21 19 18 11 - 69

SOUTHWESTERN 2 6 10 19 - 37

SWITZERLAND CO. (18-3) - (f)Clark 24, (g)Ritch 14, H. Hayes 9, (g)Gabbard 5, (g)Curran 4, Phagan 3, K. Hayes 3, Furnish 3, (f)White 2, Hunter 2, Whitaker 0, Green 0.

SOUTHWESTERN (1-21) - (f)Embs 23, (g)Ashby 6, (g)Shepherd 4, (f)Wheatley 2, (c)Schwartz 2, Mitchell 0, Stewart 0, Ary 0, Stoner 0, Ball 0, Bell 0, Adcock 0.

3-Point Goals - Switzerland Co. 7 (Ritch 4, Gabbard 1, Phagan 1, Furnish 1), Southwestern 2 (Embs 1, Ashby 1). Turnovers - Switzerland Co. 5, Southwestern 11. Total Fouls - Switzerland Co. 11, Southwestern 11. Free Throws - Switzerland Co. 9-14, Southwestern 11-13. Fouled Out - None. Next Game - Switzerland Co. plays Milan in the 2A Sectional semifinals Friday. Southwestern's season ends.