Daily photo by Emily Saunders|
Decatur High's Rico Pickett celebrates at the Northwest Regionals at Wallace State-Hanceville. Pickett scored 42 points Friday to break an 11-year-old regionals scoring record en route to pacing the Red Raiders to a 70-43 victory over Muscle Shoals and a spot in the state 5A Final Four.
Pickett's in charge!
Decatur senior scores record 42
points to lift team into Final 4
By Mark Edwards
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2461
HANCEVILLE — Muscle Shoals High's boys basketball team dared Decatur's Rico Pickett to shoot from long range. He promptly dared the Trojans to make him stop.
Pickett poured in a record-breaking 42 points Friday as the Red Raiders beat Muscle Shoals 70-43 in the Class 5A Northwest Regional finals at Wallace State-Hanceville.
Albertville's Alex Beason set the old 5A state regional scoring record when he produced 40 points in a 1996 game.
"I've felt good like that before, but I've never felt it for that long," said Pickett, a 6-foot-4 senior who has signed a scholarship to play basketball at Alabama.
Pickett's career-high game lifted the tradition-rich Decatur program into the Final Four for the first time since 2001. The Red Raiders will play again Friday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center against John Carroll, the team that ended Decatur's season last year in the sub-regionals. John Carroll also is the alma mater of Ronald Steele, Pickett's future teammate at Alabama.
Pickett had such a big day that fans of his future team had some fun with it. On an Internet message board dedicated to Alabama Crimson Tide sports, someone posted a message headlined, "So Muscle Shoals beat Rico Pickett 43-42 today?"
Inside, the message read, "Good thing Rico had a few more guys on his team to score a basket for the win."
Muscle Shoals opened in a zone defense, which the Trojans packed tightly within 15 to 18 feet of the basket. Pickett found himself alone outside the zone's perimeter and promptly sank a long-range 3-pointer the first time he touched the ball. He sank another one less than a minute later.
By the end of the first quarter, he had hit a trio of 3-pointers and had 17 points. Pickett didn't make another 3-pointer after the opening period, but he didn't need to. By the second quarter, Decatur had built a double-figure lead, and Muscle Shoals had switched out of its zone defense and guarded Pickett much more closely.
Pickett still kept scoring and did it often from close range. In the second half, he added three dunks, including one with 1:51 left in the game that gave him the record.
"We had the zone packed in tight, and he drilled one 3-pointer," Muscle Shoals coach Dennis Conner said. "He missed his next one, and I hoped that meant he would cool off. He didn't."
Pickett entered the Northwest Regional averaging a team-leading 18.3 points a game. He and his Decatur teammates had faced Muscle Shoals three other times this season, with the Red Raiders winning each time.
Pickett scored 15 points the first time, 22 in the second game and 27 in the third.
Afterward, as Decatur High rushed to gather its things from Tom Drake Coliseum and load the bus back to school, Red Raiders coach Jamie Lee said it didn't surprise him that Muscle Shoals wanted Pickett to shoot from long range.
After all, many teams guard Decatur that way because Pickett scores so often by dribbling past his defender and heading to the basket.
"But Rico is shooting almost 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc," Lee said. "He's a pretty good shooter from out there, and most people don't realize that.
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