Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Austin senior Jay Sears applies pressure to Decatur senior G Redus in the first matchup between the city rivals. Austin won the Dec. 8 contest 59-50. The two teams play again tonight at Calhoun Community College. The girls play at 6 and the boys tangle at 7:30.
Decatur and Austin hoops
teams lace 'em up tonight
By Brooke Milam
email@example.com · 340-2460
With five straight wins over city rival Decatur High, the Austin boys basketball team is in a comfort zone against the Red Raiders, and that's just what makes Black Bears coach Demond Garth a little uncomfortable.
Decatur hasn't beaten Austin since a 62-53 win at home on Dec. 10, 2004, but Garth said there's no overconfidence and it's something that he's working hard to make sure his team is taking in stride.
"It's one of those situations at Austin that we feel very fortunate to have beaten them five times in a row," Garth said. "We've accomplished that with three groups of kids that have had a part of this."
The Black Bears look to keep the winning streak alive, while the Red Raiders try to play spoiler when the Austin (13-6) and Decatur (14-4) boys play Friday night at 7:30 at Calhoun Community College.
The girls' game will tip off at 6 p.m. Austin's girls (10-11) won the last city rivalry matchup 54-39.
Decatur coach Jamie Lee said he talked about the losing streak with his team briefly after a 59-50 loss to Austin on Dec. 8, 2006 — the teams' first meeting of the season — but that he hasn't mentioned it much since then in hopes that the motivation of nine seniors will be enough to drive his team.
"I obviously think it's very important for them," Lee said. "We've told them that whether they like it or not, when they leave here, people are going to talk about them — good or bad. I hope that they don't leave here having never beat Austin."
Both Lee and Garth said they realize the magnitude of the city rivalry to the community, but that since the game is no longer a region matchup, they have tried to put the contest in perspective.
"They've got a streak going, but I don't think it's a mental block because we've really sort of downplayed it," Lee said. "We've really spent more time being who we are and trying to do our job — not worrying about who we are playing."
Similarly Garth, who was involved in the Decatur/Austin rivalry as a Black Bears player graduating in 1996, said he knows it's important but tries not to put too much weight on the game.
"We don't talk about it as much as the kids at school talk about it," Garth said.
The rivalry with such a rich history doesn't have to be built up, and it doesn't have to be talked about.
That's just how important the now pride-fueled matchup it is to the players involved.
"Every matchup is going to be a big matchup," Garth said.
Even with Division I signees, including Decatur's Rico Pickett, who will play for Alabama, and Austin's Travis Cohn, to play at Jacksonville, and several others like Austin's Jay Sears being recruited by top programs, the game remains a true team event.
When the teams met in December, Garth said that senior star Sears "played real unselfish," finishing with nine rebounds, five assists and nine points, including two of Austin's free throws down the stretch.
Pickett led Decatur in the first game, scoring 20 points. Jarodiaus Willingham had 18 and 10 rebounds.
Garth said that "in a rivalry game, you just never know what's going to happen," and added that you also never know who will be the hero. That's another factor that keeps the rivalry strong.
"Last time for us, it was Verkeneo Mann and T.T. Mallard," Garth said.
"This time I don't know who's going to have the big game — could be a senior, could be a junior. I just hope somebody steps up and I don't care who."
Keeping a streak alive or looking to break one means rivals head into the hyped game with two different mindsets. But as the regular-season stretch that builds to the postseason approaches, both Decatur and Austin need the momentum of a big rivalry win for a similar reason.
"I told our guys before we went to Bob Jones on Tuesday night that the next few games set the potential for what we do the rest of the year," Lee said.
Austin High’s boys basketball team has won five straight contests over rival Decatur — a streak that extends three seasons:
Austin 59-50 on Dec. 8, 2006.
Austin 48-42 on Jan. 13, 2006.
Austin 78-68 on Dec. 9, 2005.
Austin 64-51 on Feb. 23, 2005 in the Northwest Regionals.
Austin 54-48 on Jan. 14, 2005.
Decatur last beat Austin 62-53 at home Dec.10, 2004.
Austin vs. Decatur
Who: City rivals Austin and Decatur High play Friday night in the second of two varsity basketball meetings this season. It will be the final time the teams face off this season.
Where: Calhoun Community College's Carlton Kelley Gymnasium.
When: Decatur's girls (1-17) and Austin's girls (10-11) will tip off at 6 p.m., while the Red Raiders' boys (14-4) and the Black Bears' boys (13-6) will play at 7:30.
Home team: Austin will serve as the home team for both the boys and girls games. Decatur was the home team for the season's first contests.
- Brooke Milam
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