Raiders prevail over Mater DeiMarch 2, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
HUNTINGBURG — Tuesday evening’s opening-round 2A Sectional 48 contest between Southridge (13-10) and Evansville Mater Dei showcased a battle of contrasting styles. The Raiders displayed their affinity for pushing the ball in transition, while the Wildcats tried to halt the tempo.
Pushing the pace proved to be a boon — Southridge worked through adversity and captured a 50-39 victory over Mater Dei.
“They showed their press late in terms of trying to speed us up,” Raiders head coach Mark Rohrer said. “Early, it was kind of a drift press just to slow us down. It’s a tempo we’re okay playing with. I wish we would have scored a little bit more off of our defense. Our defense was really good in that first half.”
Southridge senior Colson Montgomery scored a critical basket with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Montgomery attacked the hoop, flicked the ball through the nylon and gave the Raiders an early 9-5 lead.
The Raiders’ tight defense forced the Wildcats to settle for long jump shots. With 3:50 remaining in the second period, Southridge senior Camden Gasser found junior Carter Whitehead on a slick no-look dish. Whitehead returned the favor with a charity-stripe jumper.
The Raiders extended their lead to 16-8 with 2:13 remaining in the half. Southridge started hustling back on defense, but Mater Dei burned a timeout.
The half’s final moments unfolded in a familiar fashion. The Raiders locked down on the defensive end and limited the Wildcats to just two points in the period.
“We’re not going to bank us holding people to two every night in a quarter,” Rohrer said with a chuckle. “Our goal is to get two single-digit quarters every night. We should have capitalized a little bit better offensively to be able to have a bigger lead, but our defense was just superb. There’s really no other way of putting it.”
The third quarter moved along at a brisk pace. The Wildcats found a rhythm and trimmed the deficit to 23-21 with 2:32 remaining in the frame, but Montgomery needed just a few moments to respond in a major way.
The senior fought through contact, drew a foul and gave the Raiders a 27-22 advantage on a layup.
Whitehead finished the quarter with a flourish. As the clock ticked down, he set his feet a few steps in front of the halfcourt line and banked in a 3-pointer as time expired.
“In these tournaments, there’s always those momentum shifts and swings — those highs and lows,” Rohrer said. “I just can’t remember being part of one as big as that. When it seemed like we were just trying to find anything positive to go our way, for that thing to go in and for us to have a lead was exactly what we needed.”
The serpentine action persisted throughout the final period. Mater Dei senior Evan Herr gave the Wildcats a brief 35-33 lead with a corner triple, but Montgomery converted another and-one opportunity.
Another up-and-under finish from Montgomery caused the Wildcats to take a full timeout at the 3:51 mark. The Raiders held a slim 38-35 advantage at that point, but Gasser widened the gap with two critical free throws.
After Mater Dei missed the front end of a one-and-one, Montgomery added another acrobatic finish to the stat sheet. The closing moments made way for fierce clashes on the glass. Each rebound helped the Raiders advance closer to victory, and some more clutch free throws sealed the win.
“We were really good rebounding the basketball in the fourth from a combination of guys,” Rohrer said. “We were going and getting it out of our area. That’s something we talk about and work on in practice. It was good to see it pay off in the fourth.”
Southridge will face North Posey at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The Raiders earned a 55-40 victory over the Vikings on Feb. 12.
“It’s a challenge, for sure,” Rohrer said. “They’ve got a nice ball club. We went down there and really played well against them the first time around. They were recently coming off a quarantine situation as a team. I think they’re probably in a lot better rhythm at this point now. It was good for our guys to get those first-game sectional jitters out of the way tonight. That way, we’ll be a little more calm on Friday and play our game on both ends.”
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