One month ago, on a Thursday evening at South Dearborn High School, the Batesville Bulldogs met the Knights in an EIAC conference showdown that saw Batesville come away with a 58-39 victory. The Bulldogs’ quest to win a second straight sectional championship was derailed Friday night, March 6, by the same South Dearborn Knights in the semifinal round of tournament action 63-60.
The weather was cold outside and the Bulldogs’ shooting was even colder inside the Connersville Spartan Bowl as Batesville was just 2 of 14 on field goal attempts in the first quarter. South Dearborn, at the same time, was plagued with turnovers throughout that quarter, which eventually came to a merciful end with South Dearborn on top 8-5.
Sam Voegele got the second quarter started for the Dogs by scoring a 2-point field goal at the rim courtesy of a nice assist from R.J. Powell. South Dearborn then began to solve and score against Batesville’s 2-2-1 full court press and stretched their lead to 19-12. The Dogs fought back and made an 8-0 run late in the quarter with Colt Meyer’s 3-ball, followed by buckets at the rim by Cole Werner and Lleyton Ratcliffe, and a free throw by Thomas Raver to give Batesville its last lead of the game 20-19. South Dearborn closed the quarter by scoring 4 points and went to the halftime locker room leading 24-20.
Third quarter action was somewhat a repeat of the first half. The Bulldogs appeared a step slow and sluggish on defense while the Knights continued to mishandle the basketball, turning it over unnecessarily. The Knights’ senior Alex Shackelford went coast to coast off a Batesville miscue, scoring at the rim and converting a free throw to give South Dearborn an 8-point lead 35-27 midway through the quarter. Again, the Bulldogs fought back, closing the gap 40-35 by quarter’s end.
The fourth quarter saw the Knights once again get past the Bulldogs’ pressing and halfcourt defenses, scoring at the rim and getting to the free throw line while stretching their lead to 49-41. Raver scored on a Batesville miss and putback field goal at the rim to pull the Dogs within six points of the lead 49-43. Meyer then proceeded to carry the fight to the Knights by scoring at the rim, from the free throw line, and from behind the arc to lead a frantic comeback and closing the Knights’ lead to 58-56 with 44 seconds remaining. After a South Dearborn free throw made it 59-56, Meyer cut the opponent’s lead to 59-58 with yet another scoring drive at the rim. Sophomore Elijah Hoffman was then fouled and converted on one of two free throws, giving South Dearborn a 2-point lead 60-58.
Batesville then inbounded the basketball and advanced it to the front court before calling timeout with 15 seconds left in the game. In the huddle, coach Aaron Garrett was looking to create something for Meyer. “Obviously Colt Meyer is our engine. We had a sophomore (Raver) taking the ball out that had to make the read, had to make the decision.They were slow to get to the screen that Colt set for Cole and Thomas read that and got the ball into Cole.” Raver inbounded the ball to Werner in the corner, who drove baseline and scored to tie the game at 60-60. South Dearborn, with just 10 seconds left in regulation time, elected not to call timeout. South Dearborn’s Hoffman dribbled down court and launched a shot well behind the arc and scored as the buzzer sounded, giving the Knights an exciting win at the finish.
Shackelford was the game’s leading scorer with 26 points, followed by Hoffman with 17. Meyer led Batesville’s scoring attack with 24 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter. Others scoring for Batesville were Voegele, 11; Charlie Dice, 10; Raver, 5; Werner and Powell, 4 each; and Ratcliffe, 2.
Garrett added, “We did not get shots to go down. We were shooting 34%. You can’t win very many tournament games shooting 34%. As frustrated as I was for the execution in the first three and a half quarters of the game, I was thrilled with the execution in pressure situations not only by our seniors, but also by the underclassmen who had to execute. We did get some good looks and some went down and some of them didn’t. But at the end of the day, we fought all the way back and it took a deep shot at the horn to beat us.”
After starting the season with a dismal 2-8 record and despite a disappointing sectional end, the Bulldogs went on to finish the season strong, winning 11 games and losing three, which included a seven-game winning streak. The Bulldogs finished the season with a respectable 13-11 record. The Bulldogs will lose Meyer, Dice and Jacob Deutsch to graduation, but will return varsity juniors Voegele, Powell and Ratcliffe along with varsity sophomores Raver and Werner.
The Greensburg Pirates went on to defeat the South Dearborn Knights 67-45 on Saturday evening, March 7, to win the Connersville Sectional.