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Knights rout Cardinals for regional crown

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TEAM: Southwood's boys' basketball team poses after winning the regional title at Frankfort on Saturday, downing Seton Catholic in the title game 92-57.
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LAYUP: Southwood's Peyton Trexler avoids a defender in midair during the Knight's game against Seton Catholic in the regional final on Saturday.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

FRANKFORT – One year ago, the Southwood boys’ basketball team bowed out in the regional round. With a rare chance at retribution on Saturday, the Knights were not going to let it slip.

After a win over North Vermillion to open the day, Southwood seized control of Saturday night’s regional final match-up against Seton Catholic early and never relented, earning a 92-57 win and the program’s first regional title since 2010.

“It’s great. These guys were tremendous,” head coach John Burrus said of his team. “We’re just so proud of the way they played, the way they represented Southwood. We’ve got class kids that play with a lot of pride and a lot of purpose.”

With both teams battling fatigue in their second contests of the day, a messy first quarter saw the two sides swap leads early.

A three-pointer from Carson Blair followed by a basket and a foul from Dallas Holmes, though, gave the Knights a lead they wouldn’t relinquish at 10-6.

The Cardinals stayed competitive throughout, keeping the deficit within single digits much of the first period. But with the Knights lead 16-12 in the final minute, Matt Nose’s layup, Blair’s three-point and Peyton Trexler’s fastbreak finish to close the quarter gave Southwood a 23-12 lead to end the frame.

The Knights continued to put space between them and Seton Catholic, building the margin to as much a 20 points in the first half.

Trexler did much of the damage in the opening two frames, finishing with 14 first-half points and nine in the second quarter. Seton Catholic’s Zach Rogers kept his side afloat with teammate and leading rebounder Jake Moynihan relegated to the bench with foul trouble, pouring in 13 first-half points himself.

The Knight lead peaked in the first half at 44-24 following a spurt of six-straight points from Southwood with Trexler responsible for two of the baskets as the visitors eventually took an 18-point lead into the break at 44-26.

“We were just trying to get tempo,” Burrus said of the first half. “We knew they weren’t disciplined and they really weren’t a team that plays great defense from a team standpoint. They have guys that can do things individually. But we’re used to seeing a little different clientele than that.

“They were playing well to get here, but we were the first team they really had to face in the tournament that was a very…senior-laden, 20-win team and that showed in that game. We ran them out of gas. Our kids, they played through our fatigue and they weren’t getting beaten tonight.”

Any doubt of a comeback was swiftly removed in the second half. Southwood opened with a 10-2 run, outscored the Cardinals 25-14 in the third period and followed it by scoring 17 of the first 19 points of the fourth quarter.

That all added up to the Knights pulling their starters with 3:45 to go in the contest up 86-42 as Southwood pulled away for the win.

Nose scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and tallied eight in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Holmes and Trexler added to the final-period onslaught that saw the Knights turn a 69-40 lead at the end of the third into an 86-42 advantage, serving as the proverbial nail in the coffin.

Trexler led Southwood with his 25 points followed by Nose's 20. Holmes poured in 18, Blair 16 and Ethen Roberts seven.

For Seton Catholic, Rogers finished with a game-high 27 points on the night, accounting for nearly half of the Cardinals’ offense.

The win moves Southwood into the semi-state for the first time since 2010 when the Knights knocked off Bishop Luers.

For Burrus, despite entering as heavy favorites in the regional, there was never a worry of an upset.

“It was never an issue because these guys have bigger goals,” he said. “The goal was to come here and win the regional. It didn’t matter what the point spread, what people’s expectations were, we had our own goal and our own bar set high. There wasn’t going to be a letdown. It was going to be are we going to face a team that gets hot and we can’t stop them and that never materialized.”

The Knights move to 24-3 with the win and extend their current winning streak to 16 games dating back to Jan. 9. Southwood will battle Fort Wayne Blackhawk in the semi-state at Huntington North on Saturday with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m.