Raiders roll to 77-63 victory over Evansville North

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Southridge senior Camden Gasser dribbles the ball during the first quarter of Thursday evening’s game against Evansville North in Huntingburg.


HUNTINGBURG — Excitement and anticipation buzzed throughout Memorial Gym’s historic walls during Thursday evening’s contest between Southridge (9-7) and Evansville North. The game presented a distinct atmosphere from the onset — because Memorial Gym allowed 25% of its full capacity, approximately 1,500 fans spectated the intense action.

While the Southridge student section made their presence felt, the Raiders earned a 77-63 win over the Huskies.

“I thought that carried us a little bit in the fourth,” Southridge head coach Mark Rohrer said. “I told the boys this before, and this is a Nick Saban quote: ‘We want to play with emotion, but not get emotional.’ That’s the overthinking. Negative things happen if you’re too emotional, but it’s very appropriate to play with emotion when you haven’t had fans the whole season.”

The fast-paced first quarter set a precedent for the remainder of the game. Southridge stormed out of the gates and captured an early 7-2 lead. The Raiders’ high-octane approach led to several defensive stops and transition opportunities.

When North settled into its halfcourt offense, the Huskies swung the ball around the perimeter and knocked down some early 3-pointers. North held a 23-17 lead with 4:52 remaining the first half, but Southridge turned up its defensive intensity and forced crucial turnovers.

“They’re one of the top catch-and-shoot three point teams that we’re going to face all year,” Rohrer said. “They hit us for four threes in the first quarter, but then we settled in. It wasn’t that we relaxed. From a speed standpoint, we got where we needed to be.”

Raiders senior Camden Gasser disrupted the Huskies with his relentless activity at the top of the key. Gasser poked the ball loose and found fellow senior Colson Montgomery for a bevy of open looks on the fast break.

The game was knotted up at 27-27 during the intermission. Montgomery scored 10 points in the first half, while Raiders junior Carter Whitehead added nine points.

Montgomery needed just one possession to score in the second half. After he received the ball on the low block, he fought through contact and dropped in a soft layup off the backboard.

The Huskies diversified their offense with a mix of inside looks and 3-point attempts. When North missed its outside opportunities, the Raiders secured the long rebounds and pushed the ball up the floor.

“Our rebounding was sensational,” Rohrer said. “A lot of times, we’re getting steals to go from defense to offense. Tonight, it was rebounding. That’s a lot harder.”

A flurry of connections from Gasser, Whitehead and Montgomery gave Southridge a 40-37 lead with 3:19 to play in the third quarter. Montgomery’s deft layup forced North to burn a timeout.

With the score tied at 42-42, Gasser applied pressure on a North inbound. The Huskies did not inbound the ball and committed a five-second violation.

Southridge senior Sam Sermersheim seized several opportunities to contribute. Sermersheim made two free throws, took a charge and made a layup. After Sermersheim scored the bucket, Montgomery rose up and rejected a North layup out of bounds.

“We had a lot of senior moments from different guys,” Rohrer said. “Sam, obviously, was one of them. Colson had a lot of them. Camden, just the way he controls the game. Kaleb (Wibbeler) was great defensively. How about Leyton Lauderdale? The crowd was chanting for him with about two minutes left. A lot of really good senior moments.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Sermersheim sent the home fans into a frenzy with a quick pump fake and an and-one layup. At that point, the Raiders owned a 54-47 lead.

The Huskies rushed some outside shots, but Montgomery took his time on what was perhaps his biggest shot of the night. The southpaw set his feet behind the 3-point line, splashed a high-arcing rainbow and forced another Huskies timeout.

The Raiders adhered to their formula and maintained the advantage in the closing moments. The victory signified Southridge’s ability to adapt, as the Raiders were originally scheduled to play Gibson Southern before the Titans needed to quarantine.

“That was a phenomenal performance on a quick turnaround,” Rohrer said. “We were playing against one of the top teams in Southwest Indiana — maybe one of the top shooting teams in the entire state. Hats off to our guys for their mental toughness.”

Montgomery led all scorers with 33 points. Whitehead added 19 points, and Sermersheim chipped in with 16 points.

Southridge will return for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at Perry Central.

“We’ll keep working to reach our peak,” Rohrer said. “We’re not there yet. We’re going to rest our bodies, but not our minds.”

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