Southridge survives scrappy Sullivan squadFebruary 26, 2019
By LYNN ADAMS
WASHINGTON — When high school basketball reaches the postseason, teams take it one game at a time, one day at a time.
A win means a team advances; a loss ends the season.
For Southridge, Tuesday night’s 49-44 victory over Sullivan in the first round of the Washington sectional ensured the Raiders would get to do something today— practice.
“[Sullivan] gave us all we could handle,” Southridge coach Mark Rohrer observed after the hard-fought outcome that was in doubt until the final seconds. “I’m really proud of our guys so that we are able to practice tomorrow.”
The victory was the 16th in the last 17 games for the Raiders, and the 10th in a row, and sends Southridge to the Class 3A sectional semifinals against Princeton at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Washington.
For much of the game’s first two quarters, it looked as if the Raiders (19-5) would be the victim of a first-round upset to the Golden Arrows, who had lost as many games as they had won.
Sullivan opened the scoring with the first of four consecutive three-pointers by Jackson Shake to stake the Golden Arrows to a 12-10 advantage by the end of the first quarter. But the Raiders kept it close in the opening quarter with close-in buckets by Jaden Hayes, Colson Montgomery and Garrett Voegerl, followed by a three-pointer by Hayes and a free throw by Montgomery.
To Southridge’s credit, the Raiders kept Kevin Figg in check throughout the first half with no shot attempts in the first quarter and a meager 1 of 4 in the second stanza. Figg, who was averaging 20.7 points coming into the game, was never a factor, finishing with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting before fouling out late in the game.
Sullivan’s scoring punch continued in the second quarter to forge a 20-10 advantage five minutes before intermission on four point-blank baskets. But trailing a 21-12 count, the Raiders went on a 15-0 run to end the quarter and begin the third period for a 27-21 lead.
During the run, Joe LaGrange and Montgomery hit two buckets apiece to pull the Raiders to within 21-20 at the break, then LaGrange and Voegerl teamed for the six-point advantage. The teams matched each other for the remainder of the period, and Southridge owned a 35-29 cushion headed into the fourth frame.
Just when it looked as if the Raiders would put the game away with their biggest lead of the game at 40-32 on field goals and free throws by Montgomery and LaGrange, Sullivan (12-13) employed a full-court press which resulted in three layups and a three-pointer to pull to within 42-41 with 1:30 remaining.
From there, it was a parade to the charity stripe for the Raiders, who got free throws from LaGrange, Montgomery and Matt Price to offset a Sullivan three-pointer 13 seconds before the end.
“That’s the definition of the cliche, survive and advance,” a spent Rohrer summarized. “Sullivan came out and played a heckuva basketball game early, [with] Shake making four threes in the first quarter. They came out and really punched us in the mouth again to start the second.”
But Rohrer knows his team’s capabilities.
“We’re a basketball team that’s just really mentally tough, physically tough. Our guys just really gutted that one out tonight from a physical and mental standpoint. It’s tough to win sectional basketball games, especially in southwest Indiana,” Rohrer said.
Heading into the contest, many would have expected a shootout between top scorers Figg and Montgomery, who entered the postseason averaging 21.5 points. But Southridge employed a tag-team defensive strategy of Voegerl and Hayes to hold Figg to single digits, and Montgomery had only three points in the game’s first 12 minutes before finishing with 15.
“I thought the way they guarded us just threw us a little bit, and we made a few adjustments on how we wanted to go against [the zone defense],” Rohrer said. “There in the third quarter, we got Joe LaGrange in some good spots to where he was scoring pretty easily.” LaGrange finished with a game-high 17 points. “When they were really doing a good job of taking away Colson, we had other guys step up.”
While Rohrer was surprised Figg tallied only three buckets on the night, he noted that limiting an opponent’s main weapons is a hallmark of the Raider defense.
“That’s what we do defensively in terms of we want to take away the other team’s go-to guys. Our guys are smart about executing what we tell them to do on the game plan. That was so evident on the last charge that Garrett Voegerl took on Figg. We knew that was kind of his go-to move, and he sat on it and did a great job of holding his ground and taking [the charge].”
While dispatching of the Golden Arrows was not an easy chore, Rohrer expects an even greater challenge when Southridge takes the floor against Princeton Friday.
“[It will be] a war. Those guys are really good; they’re physical. We’re going to need 32 minutes of our best basketball to come away with a win,” Rohrer predicted. “It’s going to be a matchup between two really good basketball teams. I’m hoping we find ourselves in the game near the end and we’re able execute at the finish and move on to Saturday.”
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