News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Decatur High's Jarodiaus Willingham (22) blocks a shot from Austin's Quez Powell at Calhoun College on Friday night.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Decatur High's Jarodiaus Willingham (22) blocks a shot from Austin's Quez Powell at Calhoun College on Friday night.

Decatur ends rival's
reign with big 2nd half

By Brooke Milam 340-2460

Starting five seniors who faced their final chance to beat their crosstown rival, Decatur broke a five-game losing streak to Austin in a big way Friday night.

Decatur turned a game that was tied at halftime at the into a 85-66 victory at Calhoun Community College.

The Red Raiders did it with senior G Redus sidelined with a knee injury, becoming his team's most enthusiastic cheerleader among a capacity crowd at 3,000-seat Carlton Kelley Gymnasium.

"They put out there the fact that it was their last chance, and that G didn't get another chance," Decatur coach Jamie Lee said.

"Our players wanted it just as bad, if not worse, for him. They wanted to send him out a winner, too."

Before Friday, Decatur's last win in the series came Dec. 10, 2004.

"Their intensity took off, and when we didn't match them," Austin coach Demond Garth said. "Decatur was clicking on all cylinders in the third (quarter). I've seen them on film a few times, and that's the best I've seen them play."

The first cheers were Decatur's — up 8-2 early before a 3-pointer by Austin's Jay Sears tied the score at 8 three minutes into the game and sent an already deafening crowd into a frenzy.

With 2:19 left in the first quarter, 6-foot-4 Decatur senior Rolando McClain, who has signed to play football at Alabama, entered the game for the first time this season after rejoining the team just over a week ago.

Less than a minute later he scored his first points of the season, putting Decatur up 16-15 before feeding Rico Pickett for a backward windmill dunk.

"He made a big difference," Garth said. "Nobody in the state can guard him."

McClain finished with eight points and a game-high tying 10 rebounds, while Pickett lead Decatur (15-4) with 22 points and 11 assists.

Jarodiaus Willingham added 19 points and nine rebounds and Rishard Tapscott 18 points, while Drei Marthaler scored six to go with 10 rebounds.

In typical dramatic rivalry fashion, Austin senior Travis Cohn drained a 3-pointer to end the first quarter tied at 18.

The score didn't loosen the rest of the half — tied again at 29, 31 and 33 at halftime.

"It didn't surprise me that it went in tied at the half," Lee said.

A basket by Willingham midway through the third quarter capped a 17-3 run for the Red Raiders, putting Decatur up 50-36 and breaking the game open.

"For a stretch there, five or six minutes, we played as good as we had all year both defensively and on transition offense," Lee said.

Sears, who played sparingly in the first half due to foul trouble, picked up his fourth foul with three minutes to play in the third.

He finished with seven points, while Cohn led Austin (13-7) in scoring with 20 points. Also in double-digit scoring for the Black Bears, T.T. Mallard had 14 points, and Verkeneo Mann added 11.

Decatur led 60-44 after three quarters before outscoring the Black Bears 25-22 in the final period.

"This wasn't our night," Garth said. "We were missing free throws, turning the ball over ... But I don't have an excuses. We played the right way — hard to the end."

Despite the lopsided final score, Lee said the rival schools put on a good display Friday night and fans got a glimpse of two quality teams that should fare well the rest of the season.

"There's no doubt about that," Lee said. "I think that we have two very good teams in this city and some great players that really play hard — and they did tonight."

Austin will host Buckhorn on Tuesday night.

Decatur's next game will be Monday night at Carver-Birmingham vs. John Carroll, which is ranked ninth in Class 5A. The Red Raiders enter as the No. 5 team in 5A.

See a Decatur player, cheerleader, coach or administrator to purchase advance tickets for $5. Tickets at the gate will be $10.

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