Area title belongs to Red Raiders
By Brooke Milam
MUSCLE SHOALS — Decatur High girls basketball coach Brad Boy knew what both his Lady Red Raiders and the Red Raiders had waiting for them when they traveled to play Muscle Shoals on Tuesday night.
The near-full 1,800 seat gym buzzed with Trojan spirit. Throughout the night, the high-ceiling, cinder-block facility built in 2000 never lost its excitement and most of the crowd was on its feet for the home team.
“I came to scout (Muscle Shoals) early in the year, and their volleyball coach told me it always gets really loud in this gym,” Boy said after Tuesday’s games. “It’s the loudest gym we’ll play in.”
Decatur’s boys were able to overcome the intense environment and clinched the Class 5A, Area 16 regular-season title with a 64-59 win at Muscle Shoals. Muscle Shoals’ girls beat Decatur’s girls 55-42 earlier in the night.
“I’m proud of the way our kids played,” Red Raiders coach Jamie Lee said.
“Area champions — that’s big. And maybe we can just keep going now.”
Ranked third in Class 5A, Decatur (19-4, 5-0 in Area 16) has scored two wins this season over 10th-ranked Muscle Shoals (20-3, 3-2).
The Trojans’ remaining loss came to Austin.
Decatur led by one at 28-27 with two minutes left in the first half and held a 33-29 advantage at halftime.
“We’ve been fortunate — we’ve been behind in a few games but we haven’t seen it a lot,” Muscle Shoals coach Dennis Conner said. “We’ve seen some good competition but we haven’t seen many teams like Decatur. ... We fought our guts out.”
Rico Pickett capped the first half with a reverse dunk and scored the first five points of the second half for the Red Raiders.
Again, Muscle Shoals cut the lead to a point midway through the third quarter before going up 45-44 on a basket by Reed Morgan with three minutes left in the third.
But Pickett erased Muscle Shoals’ advantage seconds later with a 3-pointer, putting Decatur ahead 47-45. The lead changed hands three more times before Muscle Shoals found a 52-50 lead heading into the final period.
The Red Raiders then outscored the Trojans 14-7 in the fourth.
“The defensive intensity was there,” Lee said. “We didn’t play smart at times, but we definitely played hard.”
Pickett finished with a 22 points, three rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Decatur’s Rolando McClain had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Jarodiaus Willingham had 15 points and four boards.
For Muscle Shoals, Ralston Turner had 19 points and six rebounds, while Greg Johnson scored 18 and Morgan 12.
Muscle Shoals girls 55, Decatur 42: Muscle Shoals scored the home win over the Lady Red Raiders, who led 13-11 after the first quarter and kept pace the rest of the way.
Muscle Shoals (9-10) had gained a 23-19 lead at halftime and were ahead 37-31 after the third, with Decatur (1-21) still within striking distance.
“I thought in the first half we played good team defense,” Boy said. “The only time they scored is if we got off balance.”
On the flip side, Boy said Decatur’s lack of offensive production proved to be the stumbling block, giving the Lady Trojans the eventual edge.
“I’m disappointed in our offensive intensity — that really showed in the second half,” Boy said.
Britney McCloud was the only Lady Red Raiders player to reach double digits scoring with 11 points. She also had six rebounds.
Muscle Shoals’ Kathryn Thompson had 19 points and 11 rebounds, while teammate Jennifer Smith scored 14.
Boy said Decatur’s area game at home against Russellville on Friday will be crucial for the Lady Red Raiders.
“The huge one is Friday night,” Boy said. “We’ve got to beat Russellville to finish third in the area and get another crack at Muscle Shoals.”
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