Seniors create winning culture at SouthridgeMarch 2, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
WASHINGTON — Entering this season, the Southridge boys basketball senior trio of Jaden Hayes, Joe LaGrange and Matt Price had one major goal for the basketball program — establish a winning culture in Huntingburg.
Even though Southridge’s season came to an end at the hands of Princeton with a 63-52 loss in the Class 3A sectional semifinal on Friday night, there’s no denying that the Raiders boys basketball program has gained notice all across Southern Indiana.
From their 19-win season, good for the second most in Southridge’s boys basketball history, to the continued rise of sophomore phenom Colson Montgomery there’s plenty of reasons to be excited if you’re a fan of the Raiders.
“These guys wanted to change the culture of the program and the expectation of winning every single game and doing it in a way that we can be proud of,” said Southridge head coach Mark Rohrer of the Raider seniors. “They carried themselves with how competitive they are, how skilled they are and how hard they work.”
In Friday’s game, the Raiders (19-6) jumped out to a 9-7 lead after a few quick buckets from Montgomery but once the Tigers took the lead they never relinquished it. Princeton’s Julien Ballard nailed a three-pointer to make it 10-9 and then as the first quarter buzzer sounded, Stephan Wilkerson was fouled on a three-point attempt. He knocked down all three foul shots to put the Tigers up 13-9 at the end of the quarter.
While the Raiders weren’t out of it by any means that early in the game, Rohrer admitted that the momentum swing Princeton (19-5) received after that was important.
“If they’re playing from behind the whole game then it’s just a different side of things mentally and with the momentum,” Rohrer said. “We started to press mentally and we felt like we had to get all of the points back at once. It wasn’t necessarily us making the wrong plays, it was just them making really good plays.”
After that end to the first quarter, Princeton went on a 14-0 run that saw them jump all the way out to a 23-9 lead as Ballard continued to make shot after shot and Zach Dove worked his way into the paint.
Southridge did end up trimming the lead to just six points at the halftime break after some big shots from sophomore Garrett Voegerl and a shot just before the buzzer from Montgomery. Princeton held a 27-21 advantage.
“You shouldn’t say when you’re down by six at halftime that you’re where you want to be but I thought we had plenty of time in the position we were in,” Rohrer said. “I thought if we came out and executed a few things then they would start to feel pressure and it would turn the tide.”
The Raiders did start the second half on the right foot with a bucket from Hayes but the trio of Zach Dove, Wilkerson and Ballard along with Matt Dove continued to make shots at a high rate. Princeton led 42-30 going into the final quarter after a fadeaway shot from Hayes beat the buzzer.
The closest the Raiders would ever get in the fourth quarter was 11 points and that was on the final shot of the night from Southridge freshman guard Carter Whitehead. Princeton led by as many as 17 points in the final quarter and held on for a 63-52 victory.
Even though Southridge was down by double-digits for the entire fourth quarter, Hayes never doubted his team — especially knowing the magic they had earlier this season in a come-form-behind win against Washington at the Hatchet House.
“In this same gym we were down ten with a minute to go and won,” Hayes said. “We just didn’t make the right adjustments and shots just didn’t fall.”
Hayes, who scored 968 total points during his career with the Raiders, praised his fellow seniors and the bond they had throughout their time together.
“Even though he was only here two years, Joe (LaGrange) was our rock and he left everything out there on the court and just gave his all,” Hayes said. “Matt Price, I’ve played with that guy for all four years and he’s just improved so much — whether it was his outside shot or being a leader, he was never played scared. These guys are my senior class, it’s one of those things you never lose.”
While the Raiders will lose a pair of their top scorers and one of the team’s most vocal players, Southridge returns several key components and members of their team that saw plenty of minutes including Montgomery, Voegerl and Camden Gasser.
Hayes hopes the returning group of players recognizes the hustle and effort that it takes to produce solid results and believes they can replicate that with a strong work ethic.
“I hope they learn to grind because they see the things that you can do when you put in that work,” Hayes said. “There’s going to be ups and downs but the key is just sticking together. I think there’s big things in the future coming for that group.”
Rohrer added: “I wouldn’t imagine three better role models for our young guys — whether they’re freshmen, sophomores, juniors or even our middle and elementary school guys. These guys helped aid in turning the tide of this program.”
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