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By LARRY GOFFINET
HUNTINGBURG—Perry Central boys basketball coach Matt Carter said he “tried to keep (his players’) spirits up at halftime” of Friday’s sectional semifinal game with Southridge.
“I told them eventually we would make a little run. And we did.”
That 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter carried the Commodores to a 49-40 victory.
They took a 20-3 record into Saturday’s championship game against Mater Dei, making them only the second team in school history to win 20 games (the 1996-97 sectional champions finished 21-3).
They trailed by only two points, 22-20, at halftime Friday. But Carter said they were upset because they gave up baskets in the final four seconds of each of the first two quarters after committing turnovers.
This was also only the third time they had trailed at halftime all season, and they ended up losing the other two games.
They still trailed 35-33 after Southridge’s Ben Weber hit a three-point shot from the wing with 7:05 left in the game. That was the first three-point basket for either team.
Austin LeClere immediately answered with a three-pointer, though, to put the Commodores back on top.
LeClere scored on a rebound of his own miss on the Commodores’ next possession to increase their lead to three.
Tanner Cassidy then made a steal and a three-point play on a transition layup and free throw to put the Commodores up 41-35 with 5:17 left.
Cassidy hit 4 of 4 free throws in the next four minutes to keep their lead at six, as Southridge scored only twice in that span against Perry Central’s strong man-to-man defense.
Perry Central center Colten Hedinger added a field goal with 1:05 left to pretty much seal the outcome.
“We did a great job in the second half of getting the ball toward the basket,” said Carter. “They’re very solid on defense, but we had a little better movement (than in the first half) and changed up some things trying to get into the lane.”
As for his team’s performance on defense, including using a full-court press most of the game, he said, “We try to let our depth and athleticism take its toll. We forced nine turnovers in the second half.”
The Commodores used nine players in the first half while Southridge used only six the entire game.
Commodores seeing action included guard Abe Schwartz, who missed the two previous games with a torn ligament in his ankle.
He entered the game about three minutes into it and quickly made a steal and a layup.
He finished with a team-high three steals.
“He’s not 100 percent but he sparked us,” said Carter. “I knew he would.”
Cassidy led Perry Central with 13 points and Thomas added 10. Cassidy and LeClere each grabbed five rebounds.
Trey Reese, whose father, Dave, coached Perry Central to its last sectional title in 1997, led 17-4 Southridge with 11 points.
Perry Central outrebounded the taller Raiders 22-20.
“I thought we did a great job of limiting them to one shot,” said Carter.