Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer|
Russellville's Terrance Smith, left, is called for an intentional foul after Decatur High's Rico Pickett stole the ball and was attempting a layup. Decatur won 72-52.
Change is good
With defensive switch, Decatur waltzes
By Brooke Milam
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2460
Struggling with Russellville in the opening round of the Class 5A, Area 16 tournament Friday night, Decatur High's boys basketball team needed a change in the fourth quarter.
Red Raiders coach Jamie Lee said assistant coach Byron Graham thought he might have the answer, suggesting Decatur switch from a man-to-man defense to a zone.
And just like that, Decatur became a fourth-quarter team, dominating Russellville in the final period for a 72-52 win at home.
Decatur held a slight 48-45 advantage after three quarters, before outscoring Russellville 24-7 in the fourth.
"Fourth quarter is our quarter," said senior Rico Pickett, who posted a career-high 31 points in the contest. "It was real important tonight because if we lost this, then it's over."
Fourth-ranked Decatur (23-5) will face 10th-ranked Muscle Shoals (24-5) in the finals Monday night at 7. Muscle Shoals eliminated Athens 54-47 earlier.
Pickett said that the Red Raiders' man-to-man defense was effective in the early quarters, but that he agreed with the change to zone late in the game.
"I thought man was the way to go at the beginning, but switching to the zone helped a lot — it gave (Muscle Shoals) a different look," Pickett said.
Though the final score might suggest differently, up to that point the game had been hotly contested.
The score was tied five times in the first quarter before Decatur emerged with a 17-14 lead on a 3-point play by Pickett.
After three empty possessions by Decatur in the second, Russellville went ahead 27-24 four minutes before halftime, and the Golden Tigers led 32-28 at the break.
"Over the last month I think we've been really strong in the second and fourth quarter," Lee said.
"Not so much in the second tonight, but we really came on strong in the fourth quarter tonight ... Our depth kicked in a little bit and that was obvious."
In addition to his 31 points, Pickett had four assists and four steals. His previous career-high point total was a 30-point outing against Austin as a junior.
Rolando McClain controlled the lane in the second half for Decatur and finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.
G Redus also finished in double-digit scoring for the Red Raiders with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Cory Trapp led Russellville with 16 points, including five 3-pointers, while Terrance Smith gave the Golden Tigers 10 points and five rebounds.
Looking ahead to Monday's area finals, Pickett said he hopes playing on their home court Monday night will give his team an edge.
Both regular season contests with the Trojans have been tight, but Decatur won both 71-60 and 64-59.
"I think it'll be a close game — it'll be a possession game," Pickett said. "Being at home will help a whole lot because the atmosphere will be better for us."
Muscle Shoals 54, Athens 47: Athens finished its season at 10-17 overall, but the Golden Eagles hung with the Trojans until the final minutes.
"They're a good team — they're not ranked in the top 10 in the state for no reason," Athens coach Venard Hendrix said. "I thought our execution was there — we just fell a little short."
Muscle Shoals led just 7-6 after the first quarter, and the score was tied at 18 at halftime.
Justin Pitts hit a 10-footer, putting Athens up 31-30 with three minutes left in the third.
Pitts added a free throw second later, giving the Golden Eagles a 32-30 advantage and Jacquez Pride's basket increased the lead to 34-30.
The Golden Eagles were up 34-33 going into the fourth quarter, but had to play guarded in the final period with three players on the court with four fouls.
"What hurt us down the stretch was that we had to play in foul trouble," Hendrix said. "We kind of got out of our rhythm and took some ill-advised shots. That happens when you're playing from behind."
Muscle Shoals took a 38-36 lead early in the fourth on a basket by Ralston Turner and never trailed again.
"Of course we would have liked to have gone further, but I thought we had a good year overall," Hendrix said. "We've got a good young group coming next year — we'll be back."
Pitts led Athens with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Pride scored 13. Zack Brock added 12 points and six rebounds.
Muscle Shoals' Greg Johnson led all scorers with 18 points.
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