Southridge falls shy at semi-stateMarch 20, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
WASHINGTON - Southridge was in it until the very end on Saturday, but couldn't quite seal the deal to advance to its first-ever boys basketball state championship game.
The Raiders (17-11) dropped a 40-36 heartbreaker to Parke Heritage in the Class 2A semi-state inside Washington's Hatchet House. They looked at a 28-19 deficit at one point in the third quarter, but the play of star senior Colson Montgomery and his game-high 25 points helped them tie the game, 34-34, in the fourth quarter.
However, the Wolves went on a 6-2 run to wind down the game, as senior Riley Ferguson's free throw with 3.6 seconds left to play made it a multi-possession score and put the game on ice.
It was the end of the line for Southridge's five seniors: Montgomery, Camden Gasser, Sam Sermersheim, Kaleb Wibbeler and Leyton Lauderdale. The first four seniors especially made a huge impact in the Raiders getting this far by being in the team's starting lineup.
"The thing that I'll miss the most is just their personalities - them making coming to practice enjoyable every day," Southridge coach Mark Rohrer said of the seniors. "Some coaches may not say this, but honestly, the friendships. I always say, 'Once you play for me, you're one of my guys,' and so, they're still always going to be my guys. It's just obviously going to be in a different capacity with not showing up to practice every day."
The Wolves grabbed some offensive rebounds throughout Saturday's game that they helped turn into points. Rohrer felt that rebounding was the number one point of emphasis coming into this game, but said the team got off to a bad start at the rim in spite of a good initial half-court defense.
Yet, even though the Wolves led much of the way, Montgomery had a lot to say in the final game of his high school basketball career that produced 1,966 points. His scoring came in many timely moments - from draining a 3-pointer for a 5-4 lead, to tying things at 15-15 and 17-17. Montgomery drew a foul from behind the line with 6:10 to play in the game, and sank all of his three free throws. It was also his two-handed slam that tied things, 34-34, with under three minutes to go.
Rohrer took some of his timeouts towards the end of the game, including another one when junior Carter Whitehead's bucket narrowed Southridge to a 37-36 deficit. He told the Herald his timeouts were more strategic than from a mental standpoint.
"I think earlier in the year and kind of the middle of the season, our guys would have maybe struggled in those situations mentally," he said. "That was not the case today. A lot of it was just kind of like what was going to be the next play. A lot of was making sure we found certain guys, and how we wanted to try to take away inbounds passes, and just reminders on those things."
Southridge had fouls to give towards the end of the game, and used those in the final minute to stop the clock. Montgomery got a deflection off an inbounds pass, but couldn't come away with the ball, and Parke Heritage made its free throws when it counted the most. Wolves junior Noble Johnson made both ends of a one-and-one with 30.1 seconds left, while Gasser fed Sermersheim a pass towards the rim, but he couldn't get the ball to go in.
Not long after was when Ferguson's free throw brought the game to its final score, and that sent the Wolves to the Class 2A state championship April 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian.
The Raiders, however, will have to wait to play in a state championship game for the first time in program history. They made it to the state Final Four in both 1985 and 1986, but neither team managed to make it to the state title game. However, this year's team got to semi-state for the first time since 1986, and the Raiders did so after finishing the 2019-20 campaign with a 9-15 record, thanks to a lot of injuries that they endured.
"These guys have prepared themselves so well for life because of the tough, adverse situations that they face in sports," Rohrer said. "And so, you're faced with injuries, you're faced with close losses. It just seems like getting knocked down so many times in the past couple of years willed (them) to be a resilient of a group as they have been.
"In my opinion, that sets them up to be great husbands one day, to be great workers one day, to be great family members one day," he continued. "And so, I'm extremely proud of them for that."
For more photos from the game, click here,
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