Dragons put an end to Raider dream seasonMarch 12, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — Last week, the Southridge boys basketball team was at their peak.
They had cashed in on their sectional bye en route to defeating Sullivan and Vincennes Lincoln to win their first sectional title in Class 3A division play.
However, this past Saturday was different.
The shots from their marksmen didn’t fall and continued assaults on the paint led to the team losing their grip on the game’s momentum in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Raiders were slain by the Silver Creek Dragons in the regional semifinal game at Memorial Gym in Huntingburg, 55-40.
“You got to give Silver Creek a lot of credit, they’re a very physical, defensive team,” said Southridge coach Ted O’Brien. “We fought and you got to give our guys credit. We were really good defensively in the first half. We battled on the boards as much as we could, but it took a toll on us in the end.”
The game was tight before the Dragons soared off in the fourth quarter. Both teams took their time testing their distances and finding their rhythms in the first quarter. There were a few drives inside, but Southridge junior forward Jaden Hayes dutifully played the role of Guardian of the Key and made it difficult for Silver Creek to find the four points they were able to score inside the paint.
But things were also tough on the offensive end for the Raiders. Any daylight inside was quickly plugged by an orange jersey, and Hayes found double teams every time he got his hands on the ball. But eventually, the usual suspects presented themselves.
First was junior guard Matt Price, who landed a rainbow from beyond the arc to get Southridge on the board. Then guard Colson Montgomery, a veteran of the stat sheet even as a freshman, landed another triple to give Southridge a 6-5 lead with 2:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Next was Joe LaGrange — the junior guard who transferred to Southridge this season after his father, Tim, took the job as the superintendent for the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation — hitting a three to announce his presence on the floor. But senior forward Bennett Beyl rose up for an elbow jumper with 25 seconds left, and with that gave Silver Creek a 10-9 lead to end the first quarter.
But LaGrange struck again. Silver Creek started the second quarter with a four-point outburst, which caused O’Brien to call for time to rally the troops. They did fight back with buckets from seniors Jayce Harter and Jacob Masterson, but it was LaGrange’s pickpocketing skills which gave the Southridge faithful section of the gym a jolt. As the Silver Creek guards cleared the half-court marker, LaGrange was able to come up with a steal and take it back the other way, finishing the play with a circus-shot which danced on the rim before finally falling true, bringing the Raiders within one point of the Dragons as action winded down in the half.
Montgomery and Hayes were able to light up the start of the third quarter with free throws, going four-for-four from the line to put Southridge ahead once again, 21-20. But the defensive stalemate between the two squads had not yet lifted, as evidenced by Hayes blocking a shot from freshman forward Trey Kaufman into the Silver Creek student section with less than 2 minutes remaining. Again, Southridge found themselves just out of arm’s reach of Silver Creek, as they ended the third quarter down 27-26 to the Dragons.
But then the fourth quarter started and the game turned into the Zane Gross-Jack Hawkins Show. Both juniors started trading points in the paint. Gross used his speed and strength to consistently drive inside, while Hawkins was able to find space to put his back to the basket and get offensive rebounds for second shots. And with every bucket, Silver Creek’s lead kept increasing.
But the fight was not sapped from Southridge, and when push came to shove, it wasn’t freshman scoring dynamo Montgomery pushing the rock looking for buckets. Instead, LaGrange was the player who was trying to do it all in the end. LaGrange hoisted 3-pointer after 3-pointer and wound up with six points in the fourth to lead Southridge, but it wasn’t enough.
“We really struggled with their physicality,” LaGrange said. “We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. That was just a back-breaker for us.”
Silver Creek outscored Southridge 28-14 in the fourth quarter to pull away and punch their ticket to the regional final against the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs (Silver Creek lost in the final 81-55).
Against Southridge, Gross led the way with 14 points for the Dragons, and Hawkins had another 12 points.
LaGrange had 13 points to pace Southridge, while Montgomery chipped in nine.
This end was not what O’Brien had envisioned for his team on Saturday, but he and the boys took it in stride, just as they have done with all the ups and down that came with their season.
O’Brien is proud of what his boys were able to accomplish, given the hand of cards they were dealt. They got off to a late start due to the football team’s state championship run. Two of their starters, LaGrange and Montgomery, were brand new to the team. And sophomore Garrett Voegerl was playing his first year as a varsity starter. Working out the chemistry issues led to questions about which team would show up game to game, but despite that, Southridge was able to end a decade-plus sectional title drought.
“Nobody can take away what they’ve done,” O’Brien said. “Winning a sectional for the first time in 11 years. First time ever beating Vincennes (Lincoln) in a basketball game in our school history. And the first sectional championship in 3A. Nobody can take that away from them. Their picture is going to be in this gym forever. That sectional trophy is going to be in that trophy case forever. They can’t take that away from them.”
And for LaGrange, it was a whole new experience getting used to a new school and new team. It was not all sunshine and roses trying to work out those kinks on the court. But he was inspired by the last few games of the season when the boys put it all together, and he’s excited about the team’s future with an entire offseason to workout and grow together.
“We do have a lot of good pieces coming back,” he said. “We’re just going to keep working on our chemistry together and keep building. It’s really exciting going into next year knowing that we can keep getting better and better.”
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