Raiders have pushed to turn it aroundFebruary 23, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Southridge coach Mark Rohrer vowed there would be changes to the team’s practices after the team’s 49-44 overtime loss Jan. 12 at Jasper. Since then, the team has beaten some good teams by nice margins, and also lost to some quality competition by a single possession.
“I just felt like we just needed a minor adjustment on the mental standpoint in practices,” Rohrer said. “It’s kind of having that right combination of being loose — we don’t want any worried practice environment, really ever, but we needed a touch more focus as well, I thought. I think since then, it really has been that appropriate combination of being loose, but also very focused in practice.”
The Raiders have brought down some teams with winning records by double figures. They dropped a 68-46 win Jan. 29 at Forest Park, and a 77-63 win Feb. 4 against Evansville North. The third-year coach reiterated that he’s a defensive coach, and that there’s a similar mindset between the way he wants to play defense, and the way his players execute. Rohrer cited how hard they defend instead of just saving all of their energy for offense.
This season hasn’t been without the tough losses, either. Southridge nearly upset Heritage Hills on Jan. 22 when the Patriots were the top-ranked team in Class 3A at the time, only lose on a shot in the final seconds. Then the Raiders held with Greensburg the very next night, but the Pirates escaped with a 61-59 win.
“We watch a lot of film,” Rohrer said. “I would guess that we watch more film than any team around, and we put together those clips for opponents, but also for ourselves whenever we play after our weekend games.
“And so, we put together some long playlists to go through as a group, and just highlight the positives, but also learn from one or two little things each guy could do differently throughout the game that ultimately, eventually gets us over the hump in those big games, close games, against not just quality opponents, but some of the best teams in the state,” he continued.
Senior Colson Montgomery has shined on the court for the Raiders this year — just as he’s done all four years of high school, but he’s gotten plenty of help this year, too. Seniors Sam Sermersheim and Camden Gasser, along with junior Carter Whitehead, have brought the scoring load at times, too, to give Southridge more options.
“The first six games of the year were a challenge without Colson, but we kind of knew that we were going to rely even heavier on those guys to score,” Rohrer said. “Then when we added Colson back, it takes a little time to get in that offensive rhythm once you add a guy like that back, but they have been consistent with their play. It was not enjoyable to play without Colson for six games, but I think in the long run, it may have helped a little bit in a kind of different way.”
Rohrer also searched for Southridge’s defensive stopper at the beginning of the season — and he’s found that person for the Raiders in senior Kaleb Wibbeler, who guards the opposition’s best player 90% of the time.
“Kaleb has done a very good job this year of limiting and making things tough,” he said. “It’s impossible to stop, completely shut out other teams’ best guys, but he does a tremendous job of making life very difficult for opponents’ leading scorers. He’s asked to do that for us basically night in and night out, and he’s done a nice job of it this year.”
The Raiders have beaten some of their sectional opponents this year in Forest Park and Tecumseh, but lost to Evansville Mater Dei in their season opener. Rohrer thinks his players have done a good job of putting last year’s sectional behind them when they fell to South Spencer, 56-51 after a 49-33 lead. They also dropped a 64-54 loss Feb. 19 at South Spencer.
For Southridge to win the sectional, though, the Rebels will have to fall, either to the Raiders or somebody else.
“People would say, I’m sure, that South Spencer is the more talented basketball team, but we’ve got some very talented players as well,” Rohrer said. “The way we have matured and progressed throughout the season, I think we’re getting to the point where we can compete with anybody, and on any given night, we feel like we can beat anybody.”
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