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Players put friendships on hold
Decatur, Austin tangle tonight at Calhoun

By Mark Edwards
medwards@decaturdaily.com 340-2461

For a pair of supposedly heated rivals, the Decatur and Austin High boys basketball teams get along awfully well.

Austin seniors Travis Cohn and Jay Sears say that they know all of the Decatur High players and have been friends with them for years. Cohn adds that he has kept a close friendship with the Red Raiders' G Redus and Rico Pickett since they were in elementary school.

Decatur seniors Redus, Mark Mason and Rishard Tapscott say the same about Austin. Redus calls Cohn his best friend. Tapscott says he and Cohn are cousins. Mason and Sears say they're cousins, too.

Sears adds that when Decatur and Austin play, as they will tonight, the biggest difference between that contest and an afternoon pick-up game at the Aquadome is all the people in the stands.

Tonight at Calhoun Community College's gymnasium, the Decatur girls (0-7) and Austin's girls (5-4) will face off at 6, while the Red Raiders' boys (7-1) and the Black Bears' boys (4-3) will play at 7:30.

So with all this good feeling on both sides, Decatur vs. Austin must not be intense, right?

Wrong.

"Being friends makes us play harder," Decatur's Mason said.

And don't discount the value of having bragging rights over your friends. Austin's boys have them at the moment. They won both games last year 78-68 and 48-42. Including wins in the last two of their three meetings in the 2004-05 season, the Black Bears have a four-game win streak in the series.

"It's not a region game, but it means more than one," Cohn said. "We want to win for pride."

All the fans who attend the games help drive both teams.

A typical regular-season home game for either team may draw as many as 1,200 fans. But in the larger Calhoun gym, last year's games drew more than 3,000 people.

"It's like a college game," Sears said.

"There's a big crowd. The lights are on. Everybody's ready to perform."

Added Cohn: "It gets so loud. It's really loud."

With so many fans in the stands, players can make their basketball reputation among friends and family.

"If you play good in that game, you get respect," Redus said.

Both sides said they hear about this game from friends and classmates every day.

"I hear about it 24/7," Sears said.

"People say, 'If I come see you play, I don't want to waste my money.' "

Redus added, "I was asked about it after last year's game."

But in the end, the result doesn't change the friendship. At least, that's what both sides say.

"When we play someone like Sparkman, there's a lot of trash talking," Tapscott said. "When we play Austin, there's trash talking, but after the game, it's not like with other teams — we're still friends and hang out."

Sears added, "It's two teams playing hard, but after, everybody's still cool."

Redus said he and Cohn have joked some about the game.

"But it's never serious," he said.

"In the end, we'll still be friends, no matter the outcome."

Austin vs. Decatur

  • Who: City rivals Austin and Decatur play tonight in the first of two varsity basketball meetings this season. They also play Jan. 12, 2007.

  • Where: Calhoun Community College's gymnasium.

  • When: Decatur's girls (0-7) and Austin's girls (5-4) will face off at 6, while the Red Raiders' boys (7-1) and the Black Bears' boys (4-3) will play at 7:30.

  • Home team: Decatur will serve as the home team tonight, while Austin will be the home team for the Jan. 12 contests.

    Mark Edwards, Daily Sports Editor

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