Greensburg Daily News
North Decatur head coach Kyle Nobbe’s basketball team has taken the South Ripley Sectional 45 tournament by storm, making South Ripley’s domain North’s own.
The North Decatur boys basketball team advanced to the championship game for the third time in three seasons. The Chargers defeated host school South Ripley 55-54 in overtime, qualifying for tonight’s title game against Switzerland County. North is out to defend its sectional championship it won over the Raiders a year ago.
Nobbe had one word to describe his team after pulling off the upset - resilient.
Senior John Hammersmith converted a three-point play with 24 seconds left in the extra session to secure Friday’s victory. The Chargers will play Switzerland County (17-4) Saturday for the championship, with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. The Pacers beat Austin (10-12) 52-44 in overtime in the earlier game.
North’s semifinal upset featured another close encounter between the rivals, but unlike last year, the Chargers were tested from the start. The Raiders scored the first four points of the game until freshman Dayne Lecher answered with a 3-pointer. Ripley, though, went on a 7-0 run to go up 11-3, prompting a timeout from North’s bench. Freshman Andrew Hocker fueled a crucial awakening for his team with a 3-pointer, and freshman Zach Johnson scored to pull within two at 13-11. Moments later, senior Jason Kirchhoff gave North a 14-13 lead with a score. Senior Kevin Geis followed with a triple to give North an 18-15 lead halfway through the second quarter. Hammersmith and Johnson each added scores to go up 22-19, but Ripley sophomore Tyler Gabbard’s triple tied it with 21 seconds left in the half.
Another freshman came through in the clutch as Evan Wallpe deposited a bucket, giving North a 24-22 lead at the break.
As Nobbe correctly predicted, the Raiders emerged from the halftime break with intensity and determination to make a run.
“They’re going to come out and start the third quarter, and come out with energy,” he said. “We got stops right away (and prevented a South Ripley rally). What I’m most proud of is the way our kids responded.”
Down the stetch, North maintained its composure and stayed resilient in the second half. North withstood two long-range bombs from junior Caleb Huntington, which both gave his team their only two leads of the second half. Kirchhoff scored eight points in the latter minutes of the third quarter, and Hammersmith scored nine in the fourth. Two of his four most important points, however, came off his own steal with 1:01 left in regulation to force overtime.
North encountered more adversity in overtime. Senior Cody Federmann hit a layup to give Ripley one of its two short-lived advantages in the extra session. Kirchhoff, though, answered with a triple at the 2:37 mark, but senior Trey Sparks converted a 3-point play to make it 54-52 with 1:22 remaining. Less than a minute later, Hammersmith delivered the play of the game with a basket-and-one of his own.
Hammersmith led all scorers with 22 points. He scored 19 of them in the second half.
“John was outstanding for us again tonight,” said Nobbe of North’s leading scorer.
Kirchhoff followed with 15 hard-fought points after scoring 11 Wednesday.
Geis finished with four points, while Lecher and Hocker each hit a 3-ball. Wallpe chipped in two.
North shot 9-for-12 (75 percent) from the foul line, while Ripley shot 7-for-13 (54 percent).
Nobbe also credited senior Dylan Koors for valuable minutes he played off the bench.
Hocker was a factor defensively during his extended playing time, recording unofficially seven rebounds.
“Andrew Hocker was outstanding tonight again,” said Nobbe. “He did a tremendous job defensively. He was disappointed in Wednesday’s game, but he wanted to come out and (play better tonight). That’s just getting after it.”
According to Nobbe, North unofficially committed just seven turnovers.
“We talked about it before the game started,” said Nobbe of playing sound, fundamental basketball. “We needed to do two things - play smarter than your opponent, and play harder than your opponent.”
Nobbe credited the Raiders for a tough matchup and challenging game.
“They’re big inside and physical,” he said. “We had options defensively. We could chase them off to the 3-point line or force them to take shots inside.”
Nobbe also applauded his assistants, PJ Metz and Ryan Brattain. They suggested that North go to Hammersmith on an isolation on the interior, to give him an opportunity to attack inside. The results spoke for themselves as he drew a foul and scored on the tying play.
“Our coaches did an outstanding job,” said Nobbe, “with their preparation and their ideas off the bench.”
Hammersmith also recorded a game-preserving shot block with 6.1 seconds left, which disrupted a possession until Hocker came away with a defensive rebound.
“With 4.9 seconds left, you can get a good shot,” said Nobbe of the possession. “He gave fantastic help defense on that block.”
For a team that entered the game with five wins, the Chargers didn’t play like the heavy underdogs they were.
“I’m really proud of our kids’ effort,” said Nobbe.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.