Rebels’ raucous rally ruins Raiders’ rout

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Southridge's Sam Sermersheim tries to control the ball on a rebound during Friday's boys basketball sectional semifinal in Huntingburg. South Spencer defeated Southridge 56-51.
For more photos from the game, click here.


HUNTINGBURG — The rout was on for Southridge.

And then it wasn’t.

South Spencer, left for dead with six minutes to go in Friday night’s Class 2A sectional semifinal game with the Raiders owning a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead, staged a frenetic comeback, scoring 23 of the game’s final 25 points to turn a 49-33 Southridge cakewalk into a 56-51 stunner.

Surely Southridge coach Mark Rohrer woke up this morning believing what unfolded on the floor of historic Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium was simply a horrible, unbelievable nightmare, and he needed to prepare his Raiders to take on North Posey for tonight’s sectional championship game.

To be sure, it was a nightmare, but it was one the second-year coach, his players and the Southridge faithful couldn’t believe was happening to them, even as it was happening.

Livin’ large and in charge after Camden Gasser drained his third 3-pointer with 5:48 to go before the Southridge celebration kicked into high gear, the Raiders had built what everyone believed was a lead that would hold up down the stretch — and that was with star Colson Montgomery on the bench with four fouls.

And even after the Rebels scored five straight points, Gasser’s two free throws boosted the Southridge advantage to 51-38 with four minutes remaining.

With the game’s previous 3 1/2 quarters as testament to the Raiders’ resiliency to withstand any South Spencer threat, there was really no reason for concern.

But that’s when the wheels came off.

During the game’s first 30 minutes, the Raiders cashed in on 12 of the 13 free throws they attempted. In the final two minutes, three different Southridge players combined to miss six consecutive charity attempts — two trips to the free throw line with bonus shots available — potential points that would have staked the Raiders to a 56-51 lead with 81 seconds to play.

But after Gasser’s free throws with 4:00 showing, Southridge did not score again. Kobe Bartlett, who scored nine of his 11 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, converted a 3-pointer and ensuing free throw to give South Spencer a 52-51 lead with 67 seconds left.

And when the Rebels coughed up the ball with 35.8 seconds to go, the expectation was that the Raiders would score as the clock wound down to salvage a 53-52 win and advance to the sectional title game.

But a pair of Rebel free throws, a Southridge turnover and a breakaway layup by Jace Kelly for the last of his game-high 27 points finished it for the 9-15 Raiders.

“Sectionals are just really hard to win. This is my third,” Rohrer concluded. “Personally, I gave everything to get ourselves ready for this, and I think the players gave absolutely everything to put themselves in that position down the stretch, and we just didn’t finish it.

“Sectionals are hard.”

From Rohrer’s vantage point — which reflected what everyone else in the gym was witnessing — the game was unfolding exactly the way Southridge had wanted.

“I thought we executed brilliantly throughout the first 3 1/2 quarters, and we had the game and the situation exactly where we wanted,” Rohrer said. “That final result was not for lack of execution on our part, it was just lack of being able to make a free throw at the end and lack of just being able to get one more [defensive] stop to eliminate some momentum on [South Spencer’s] part.”

In trying to explain the unexplainable finish, Rohrer remained pragmatic.

“I don’t think there’s any chance that Carter (Whitehead) and Camden miss those free throws if they don’t get hurt throughout the season. [This was Carter’s first game back.] It wasn’t even a pressure thing. It was just not having what was needed left in the tank physically because of being out for so long. And giving the effort that they did throughout the game,” the coach decided. “If they don’t miss time, I don’t think they miss those free throws.”

And the Raiders would still be celebrating an upset of the No. 10-ranked Rebels, who have won 21 of their 25 games this season.

“We have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to build off of moving forward,” Rohrer said. “It was just the final chapter in what was an unbelievably challenging season. It doesn’t mean by any stretch that it was a bad season, there was just so much adversity throughout. I was very proud throughout the season of how resilient we were.”

Southridge graduates four seniors — starters Garrett Voegerl and Austin Kaeck, and reserves Jadon Culbertson and Gavin Voegerl — but returns three starters that were the only players to score in double figures in the season finale.

Southridge head coach Mark Rohrer watches a player miss a free throw during Friday's boys basketball sectional semifinal in Huntingburg. South Spencer defeated Southridge 56-51.
For more photos from the game, click here.

“What we just told the seniors in the locker room was we hope they are able to attack life the way that sports prepares them to through learning tough lessons about discipline, about character, about resiliency. I know they will because they’re great kids. That was kinda the message from not just this game, but from the entire season of all the challenges that we’ve gone through. They’re already good people, but [for them to] be such great people because of the lessons that sports teaches you,” Rohrer said.

“From the underclassmen’s standpoint — the freshmen, sophomores and juniors — just having the ability to use this as motivation. I think you’re going to see a group of younger guys that are gonna be even more motivated moving forward the rest of their careers.”

The Rebels took a short-lived 7-4 lead to start the game, but Southridge scored 13 straight points for a 17-7 edge just 30 seconds into the second period. The Raiders owned a 26-18 advantage at halftime, and were up 38-28 heading into the fateful fourth quarter.

Montgomery was whistled for his fourth foul and was forced to the sideline just 16 seconds into the final frame, but Southridge was hitting on all cylinders to extend its lead to a whopping 16 points.

Then the offensive well dried up for the Raiders, as South Spencer went on a 23-2 run to end the season for Southridge.

For more photos from the game, click here.

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