Decatur downs RHS for area title
For the FCT
ATHENS – More than once this season, Decatur High girls basketball head coach Brad Boy came away from contests his Lady Red Raiders had lost knowing they let one slip away.
The struggle to finish off an opponent ended Saturday night. Decatur secured a 55-33 win over Russellville in the Class 5A, Area 16 finals early and saw it through to the end.
"It showed at times that we were a little uneasy playing with a lead – we don't do that much," Boy said with a smile.
But did they finish this time?
Boy had a quick and emphatic answer.
"Yes. Definitely," Boy said. "We had a sixth teammate, and that was the clock."
Decatur clinched its first area title since 2001.
"I told the girls the title of area champion – that's forever theirs," Boy said.
Decatur (17-15) handed Russellville (8-17) its third largest loss of the year. The only other wider margins came in losses to 4A No. 3 Deshler and Athens, which fell to Russellville in Thursday night's area semifinals.
"It didn't happen for us tonight," Russellville head coach James Bostick said. "But I'd like to see us both go on to Wallace and play in the Northwest Regionals. It'd be great for this area."
Both Decatur and Russellville have a chance to advance to the Northwest Regionals at Wallace State-Hanceville.
In Thursday's sub-regional round, Decatur will host the runner-up of the Area 13 final, while Russellville will travel to the winner.
Hartselle will play at Brewer on Monday at 6 p.m. for the Area 13 championship.
Despite Decatur's 13-8 lead over Russellville at the end of the first quarter and a 30-16 advantage at halftime, the battle was not won in the first half.
In fact, with both teams pressing, it was just getting started at the break.
The Lady Red Raiders took a double-digit lead in the second quarter when Lindsey Hawkins' basket with 3:40 left put Decatur up 21-10.
From there, Decatur focused on not letting the lead slip away, and Boy said the main focus was sticking with steady rebounding.
"Rebounds lead to second-chance points and that's where we wanted to get control of things," Boy said.
That's where Decatur junior Shannon Laughlin came up big.
Laughlin tied sophomore Britney McCloud for a team-high 16 points, but perhaps more importantly, pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
On the boards, she had to battle Russellville freshman sensation Natasha West, who scored 16 points with nine rebounds.
"I knew I needed to rebound for us to be successful," Laughlin said.
Decatur ended even with Russellville on second-chance points. Both teams finished with 10, a mark that Boy said Russellville won the last time the teams played each other.
Russellville's full-court man-to-man pressure slightly slowed Decatur's offensive production in the third quarter. The Lady Golden Tigers outscored the Lady Red Raiders 14-12 in the third, but the damage had been done.
Decatur led 42-30 at the end of the third and outscored Russellville 13-3 in the final eight minutes.
"I think we finished," Laughlin said. "They got on a run, but we pulled ourselves together and finished things out."