Raiders pound Perry with a pinch of everything

Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Southridge’s team cheered in the locker room while Jonathan Schum (20) signed a plastic bubble for having 10 rebounds during Friday’s JV contest at Huntingburg Memorial Gym. The Raiders varsity squad also thrived on the boards, outrebounding Class 2A No. 10 Perry Central 27-16 in a 66-51 victory. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — The size, the speed, the balance. The Southridge boys basketball team must be a frustratingly complicated unit to challenge.

It starts with that size — all 311⁄2 feet of it between the starting five. Then there is the speed, flashing and cutting and darting into corners for traps or into passing lanes or sprinting down the court for layups. And if you can handle that, there’s the balance. Shots from the outside, pounding the glass on the inside and distributing the ball everywhere to anyone.

On nights when all three click simultaneously, it’s a trifecta that is impressive to witness.

What was supposed to be some version of the unstoppable force (Perry Central’s offense) versus the immovable object (Southridge’s defense) turned out to be a Raider whirlwind that kicked off from the opening tip. Southridge flexed its size and strength in a 66-51 win that featured four Raiders with double-digit scoring and a Perry Central offense that didn’t convert a 2-pointe r until midway through the second quarter.

“We wanted to close off the paint,” Raider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “We wanted to keep the basketball in front.”

And that’s exactly what the Raiders did.

Southridge (7-4) held the Commodores, averaging 67.6 points per game this season, to their lowest offensive output of the year by utilizing their tremendous length. Whether it was causing deflections, denying entry passes or corralling steals, the Raiders kept a potent offense on its heels the entire night. The Commodores (8-2) converted 9-of-20 from 3-point range, but entering the fourth quarter, they had converted only two 2-pointers.

“Our coaches have been talking about that all week,” Raider senior Chad O’Bryan said about forcing the wealth of Perry Central guards to settle for outside shots. “We’ve been playing matchup (zone) defense all week to kind of slow them down and give them outside shots and pack it in the paint a little bit.”

“With our height, we get into passing lanes because we’re so lanky,” he added. “It’s hard to get a shot off with our entire starting lineup over 6-foot besides (Connor Craig). It’s definitely hard to score on that.”

And while the defense kept the Commodores beyond the arc, the Raider offense attacked inside on the other end.

Southridge outrebounded Perry Central 27-16 and worked an inside-out game that started with eight points off layups or putbacks in the opening period. When O’Bryan tipped in a errant shot just before time expired, the Raiders led 12-4 at the quarter break. Perry Central cut it to as close as eight points in the second quarter off a combination of 3-pointers and Raider turnovers, but Cody Thompson dropped in a 10-footer from the baseline and Southridge converted free throws the next two trips to take a 29-19 lead into halftime.

And from there, everyone kicked in points.

After tossing the ball away on the first possession of the third quarter, the Raiders scored on eight straight possessions. First a Thompson jumper, then and basket-plus-one for Cam O’Bryan. Then another two points for Thompson, this time an offensive board and putback. And then Craig got into the mix with a layup. When reserve Jonathan Schum converted a quick baseline jumper in transition with 2:55 remaining in the quarter, the Raiders had doubled a 10-point lead to 20 in less than five minutes.

Four Southridge starters finished in double figures. Chad O’Bryan tied Central’s Andrew Huber for a game-high 17 points. Thompson had 14 points, Craig tied a season-best with 16 points and Cam O’Bryan set a new career best with 13, nine in the second half.

“That’s huge, to be able to share the ball and have confidence,” Chad O’Bryan said about the balanced scoring. “Four guys with over double-digit scoring is huge for a team like us.”

“We have a couple of guys that we can run plays for and look to get a score, but at the same time ... we just have to make plays,” Rauch said. “It’s about moving the ball and finding the open man and hitting the open shot, and things can look a lot better when shots are going in.”

The Raiders shot 19-of-40 from the field and collected 26 points on 30 attempts from the free throw line. Southridge took a 50-34 lead into the fourth quarter and never led the lead dip below 14 points.

“I think that’s a sign of our focus,” Rauch said. “We came in and played to win the ballgame, and this is a growing team but now we know what it takes to come here and play championship (basketball).

“That was a championship level effort. Now we need championship level effort on Monday through Thursday, and let’s do it again on Friday.”

The Raiders get a week off before a pair of road of games against stiffer competition. On Friday, Southridge travels to Lincoln City for a tussle with Heritage Hills (9-1) and then makes the hike to Paoli for a matchup with the Class 2A No. 7 Rams (8-0) on Saturday.

Until then, Southridge will enjoy the win, especially with the work Rauch said the Raiders have put in this season.

“We never want to take winning for granted,” Rauch said. “We work so hard. Credit our guys, they work so hard, whether they played a minute in the varsity game or a minute in the JV game or none at all in either game, they battle in practice for these opportunities. So if we’re not excited about good wins or about wins at all, then we’re doing it for naught anyway.”

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