Greensburg Daily News
The North Decatur boys basketball team bowed out of the South Ripley Sectional 45 tournament Saturday, but only after outlasting four other teams in the tournament field. After the Chargers’ 62-52 loss to Switzerland County, head coach Kyle Nobbe expressed why he felt pride in his losing team.
“I’m really proud of their effort, and that’s the first thing we looked at,” he said. “If you play hard, you’re going to give yourself a chance, and our kids did that, and gave ourselves a chance there late in the fourth quarter. That’s all we can ask for, is to be within two possessions with three minutes to go. You have to make plays, whether it’s offensively or defensively, and we just didn’t make a couple plays in that three-minute span.”
The teams alternated leads throughout the game, and the Pacers were able to prevail by making a few more plays than the Chargers did.
“I don’t think it was necessarily as much what we didn’t do,” said Nobbe. “It was Switzerland County’s ability to make shots when they needed to. It shows it’s a 10-point game...but it was tight throughout. To Switzerland County’s credit, when we started pressing, they attacked it and attacked for layups. When we had to foul, they were able to make free throws in the last two minutes to secure the win.”
The Pacers led 15-9 after the first quarter, but North took a 23-21 lead into halftime. Senior John Hammersmith led all scorers with 13 points at the break.
The Chargers (6-17) traded baskets with the Pacers in the third quarter, and trailed 38-36 after the third stop.
“We had a couple of chances right at the start of the fourth to maybe tie the game, number one, but to get a lead, two,” noted Nobbe. “That would have been a big thing for us if we could have gotten that lead in the fourth quarter, but we missed a couple shots that, if we hit, it changes the complexion of the game.”
The Pacers used their length to their advantage when North’s fatigue set in. With four players 6-foot-6 or taller, the Pacers were able to throw over the top of North’s traps. During a crucial three-possession span of the fourth quarter, the Pacers hit a pair of 3-pointers that proved to be the turning point of the game.
“Their length bothered us,” said Nobbe. “Sometimes you try to take away things that the other team does, and that’s what we did. We did not want them to be able to score off the block with their back to the basket. The kids did an outstanding job all game long of taking that away, but to their credit, they hit six 3-pointers. It was the timing that they hit them. We kind of had to pick our poison with them a little bit, and to their credit, they knocked in those three’s when they needed it. I was really proud of our kids, though.”
North pulled to within four with about three minutes left in the game, but a Pacer triple enabled Switzerland to maintain control as both teams exchanged baskets until the final minute.
“We just couldn’t get enough stops when we needed to,” said Nobbe. “When we had to press consistently that last three minutes of the game, it showed that we were tired.”
Hammersmith scored a career-high 32 points and was named the Sectional 45 Most Valuable Player. He averaged 27.7 points in the three games. Kirchhoff joined Hammersmith on the All Sectional team after scoring 32 in the tournament.
“John Hammersmith was unbelievable,” said Nobbe. “He was named Sectional MVP on a losing team. He was a one-man wrecking crew. I was really proud of both of those kids for the recognition that they got. I know they’d give all that away just to be able to be playing this Saturday, but sometimes that’s the way it goes, and you can’t win them all.”
Freshman Zach Johnson added seven points, including a 3-pointer. Kirchhoff added six, senior Kevin Geis chipped in four and freshman Andrew Hocker added a fourth-quarter triple.
Nobbe credited the seniors for leading the way during the strong tournament run.
“I was proud of our seniors,” he said. “No one ever wants to go out losing, but they really played well at the right time of the year. All of our kids did.”
Nobbe said the blend of seniors with first-year varsity players worked well, despite the 4-16 record.
“It’s a pretty rare makeup of what our sectional roster was, with four seniors and six freshmen,” he said. “All 10 of those kids contributed at some point. It does bode well for the future. It gives our kids some experience, and lets them know how hard it is to get to that point, to get to that game, and how hard it is to win that game. That’s something every year we try to tell our kids. We have those kind of kids that are going to battle, and they’re going to work to get better. I’m excited about the way our season ended. I’m obviously disappointed that we lost in the final, but I’m excited about what our future holds for the rest of our kids returning.”
North committed just seven turnovers Saturday.
“I told the kids that if they played hard and played smart, we’d have a chance to win, and that’s what they did,” he said. “It was bittersweet the way we were up-and-down throughout the season, but even the last month of the season, I thought we started playing better basketball, and more consistent basketball. Then we were fortunate enough to put together consistent games in all three sectional games.”
Nobbe looked at the positive out of the 17-loss season.
“It showed what kind of schedule we play, how solid our conference is, and also our non-conference schedule,” he said. “You hope playing that kind of schedule prepares you for a sectional, and I thought it did.”
The fan support that backed the Chargers in Versailles was not lost on Nobbe.
“Our fans were terrific all three nights,” he said. “Tuesday night was a great crowd. Friday was even better. It was essentially a packed house. Neither team disappointed in the Friday night game, or the other semifinal game that went to overtime with Switzerland County and Austin. Saturday night was no different. We had tremendous fan support, and Switzerland County had as well, so it made for a great atmosphere. I was really proud of our community and the support that they gave these kids - not just through the sectional, but throughout the entire season.”
Nobbe also credited his assistant coaches for helping improve the team over the course of a long season.
“They did an outstanding job,” he said. “I’m very, very fortunate to have two guys like that on my staff that are very committed, very committed in the offseason. You rely upon your assistants to be doing the right things, and those two definitely do, as well as our junior high coaches. That’s part of a program, and that’s how you get a program to be consistent.”
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.