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Perry Central’s depth has been a key factor in its boys basketball success all season and was again in its sectional championship.
The Commodores almost always use at least eight players in the first half and nine in a game.
In Saturday’s championship game Mater Dei used only seven players the entire game, and their two reserves did not score or even attempt a shot.
Abe Schwartz, a starting guard for the Commodores their first 20 games of the season, then missed two games with a torn ligament in his ankle.
He returned in a reserve role for the last two games of the sectional and hit two key three-pointers in as many attempts in the championship game.
“Abe’s not 100 percent yet, but he hit two huge threes,” said Perry Central Coach Matt Carter. “And with a bad ankle he kept his man in front of him (on defense) most of the night.
“Abe’s not playing as many minutes as normal, but we played our normal nine guys and got good things from all of them.”
Schwartz entered the game early in the first quarter Friday and Saturday and played nearly the entire fourth quarter Saturday.
He said his ankle did not hurt most of the game, as “I think adrenaline kicked in.
“It did hurt a little bit in the first quarter when I made a hard cut once. But it’s not hurting at all now.”
Funny how celebrating a sectional championship can make everything feel good.
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With Schwartz unable to handle the ball as much because of his ankle, versatile Tanner Cassidy, listed as a starting forward, played the point most of Saturday’s game. And the Commodores committed only five turnovers, the second time in their three sectional games that they had that few.
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In their regular-season meeting with Mater Dei, the Commodores used a variety of defenders on Wildcat center Tyler Walsh.
But in Saturday’s rematch Hedinger guarded him nearly the entire game, though “we did a better job in the second half of running a second defender at him,” said Carter.
That helped Hedinger hold him to four points on 2 of 7 field-goal shooting in the last 15 minutes.
“Coach wanted me to try to front him most of the time and try to draw a lot of fouls on him,” said Hedinger. “But the refs weren’t having any of that.”
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Carter, who was the leading scorer for the Commodores’ 1997 sectional championship team, apparently became only the second person in Perry County history to play for a basketball sectional champion and coach one at the same school.
The other person to do so was Joe Hafele, who did it with Cannelton. He was the leading scorer for the Bulldogs’ 1946 sectional champions and six years later guided them to a sectional title in his second year as coach.
That was the Bulldogs’ last sectional title until they won one in the first year of class sports in 1998.
Asked whether it felt better to win a sectional as a player or coach, Carter said, “As a player obviously it’s exciting and thrilling.
“But now as a coach I kind of have a better understanding of how hard it is to win games and how much hard work it takes to prepare a team to win a sectional.”
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Looking at comparative scores and chains of scores can often be misleading. Comparing several tennis scores in the 1970s could have given one the idea that basketball star John Lucas, who also played tennis at the University of Maryland, could have beaten Jimmy Connors in the latter sport when Connors was ranked No. 1 in the world.
Still with Perry Central about to play an unfamiliar opponent, Switzerland County, in the regional, it’s human nature to check the Pacers’ schedule to see how they did against any team Perry County teams have faced.
The only such opponent I found was South Central. The Pacers lost by 15 points at South Central Dec. 22.
Two weeks earlier Tell City lost at South Central by 20 points.
Considering Perry Central beat Tell City by at least 20 points three times this season, one could draw the conclusion that Perry Central should have few problems against the Pacers.
However, Carter noted that the Pacers’ game at South Central “was early in the year. They’ve won 10 in a row now.”
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This may have been Perry County teams’ last true Southridge sectional for a while, as the host school may go up to Class 3A next year.
The IHSAA has not released its classes for next year yet but did release enrollment figures. Southridge is ranked 199th out of 404 member schools, so if the classes are divided equally Southridge will be in 3A.