Sermersheim critical to Southridge's successMarch 11, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG - Listed on the Southridge roster as being 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Sam Sermersheim isn't the tallest player on his team - but he's tasked with guarding the opposing team's big man game in and game out.
The Raiders (15-10) had to get through three games to claim the Sectional 48 prize - their 14th boys sectional championship in history. Sermersheim had to guard each player's opposing big man - all taller than he is, but the big men for Southridge's opponents made little impact on the score sheet.
Senior Alex Money contributed three points in the team's 50-39 win March 2 against Evansville Mater Dei. Sermersheim had the task of guarding North Posey junior Jonathan Ricketts, who tallied five points as Southridge got past the Vikings, 43-33, March 5, and in the March 6 championship game, Sermersheim's efforts helped limit junior Holton Compton to four points in the Raiders' 58-44 win against the Rebels.
Sermersheim may be someone who helped limit a trio of big men to a combined 12 points in three games, but he told the Herald on Tuesday that it isn't easy.
"It's really hard because you got to constantly keep working on him, and just try to ride him out and just pushing outside the post so he can't get anything easy around the basket," Sermersheim said.
"He does not lose many matchups to opponents' big guys - even as an undersized big," Southridge coach Mark Rohrer said. "I think that's a big credit to his work ethic, his character, his commitment. All the different intangible things that doesn't necessarily show up in any kind of flashiness, he is just extremely hard working, and that hard work has paid off in a big way for him individually and us as a team."
The Raiders got their reward on March 6 after all their hard work prior to that point. Sermersheim got to revel in being a key part on a sectional championship team, and the Raiders got revenge against the Rebels from last year's 56-51 semifinal heartbreak.
Sermersheim said the team didn't take long to put the loss behind them, and they put South Spencer on their calendars at the beginning of the season, but it was hardly a pleasant feeling when it happened.
"It was horrible," he said. "It looked like we were going to win, and we just threw an egg at the end, and they came back and beat us."
The sectional loss to South Spencer capped off a tough junior campaign for Sermersheim's team. Southridge had to deal with injuries to Colson Montgomery and Camden Gasser, two of his fellow seniors, and also to Carter Whitehead, a junior. Sermersheim never got hurt, and has appeared in all 49 of Southridge's games these last two years - so the Raiders had to rely on him as the three missed some games simultaneously. He averaged eight points per game as a junior.
"Usually, those guys can create stuff for me, but then them being out, I had to kind of create more on my own and for other people," Sermersheim said.
Montgomery scored 26 points in the first half of the sectional championship game against the Rebels, and totaled 38 in the game, but Sermersheim was second on the team with 11 points. He's had to work hard on every defensive possession to limit the other team, but has shown multiple times this season that he's capable of getting into double figures himself, averaging 10 points per game his senior year. Sermersheim's 459 career points put him 47th in school history.
"Since Colson's kind of taken an even bigger role this year, if he gets hot early, then he just brings more defense to him, and then that creates opportunities for me to get wide open layups or Camden, Carter, (fellow senior Kaleb Wibbeler) to get wide open threes," he said.
"We did not enjoy playing without Colson those first six games (this season), but it really forced Sam and Carter especially to become more offensive threats for us - which we knew was going to pay off throughout the season," Rohrer said.
Sermersheim said to the Herald on Tuesday that the Raiders wanted South Spencer in the sectional championship, and this sectional win also avenged a 64-54 loss to them on Feb. 19 during the regular season. The win felt amazing, and he couldn't find any other way to put it.
The Raiders knew that this time, when they held a big lead, they weren't going to let the Rebels come back.
"Our defense was a lot better, and they didn't have a guy that hit seven threes on us (like senior Kobe Bartlett did in the regular season)," Sermersheim said. "So, that made it quite a bit easier."
Southridge didn't always get to play in front of a lot of fans this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Sermersheim said Huntingburg Memorial Gym was louder on March 6 than it was all season.
It meant a lot to him to be able to win it on his home floor. Huntingburg Memorial Gym has been a longstanding sectional tradition, and hosted the Dubois County teams during much of the single class basketball era. Today's high schoolers like Sermersheim don't know what that was like, but he does appreciate everything the venue is.
Sermersheim and the Raiders will get an opportunity for more hardware on Saturday when Huntingburg Memorial Gym hosts the Regional 12 Tournament. Southridge will meet Paoli in the morning game, and if it gets to the championship, would play either Southwestern or Linton-Stockton.
Winning this regional would be a big breakthrough, as the only two regional titles the Southridge boys have ever won came in 1985 and 1986 - when the Raiders made it to the single class Final Four those two years.
"If we're able to play at a really high level like we did Saturday, I think we have just as good of a chance as anybody else in the regional," Rohrer said.
"I think we can win it this weekend," Sermersheim said. "If we just keep working hard and playing the best we can, then good things will come.
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