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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2007
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Decatur High's Caleb Thomas, left, and Rico Pickett (11) defend a Muscle Shoals player as Reed Morgan (10) watches during a contest at Earl Morris Gymnasium on Dec. 12. The fourth-ranked Red Raiders (24-5) host Cullman (16-16) in a sub-regional game Friday at 7 p.m. Decatur has lost one game at home in the past two years.
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Decatur High's Caleb Thomas, left, and Rico Pickett (11) defend a Muscle Shoals player as Reed Morgan (10) watches during a contest at Earl Morris Gymnasium on Dec. 12. The fourth-ranked Red Raiders (24-5) host Cullman (16-16) in a sub-regional game Friday at 7 p.m. Decatur has lost one game at home in the past two years.

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own risk

Decatur has lost 1 game
in 2 years on home court

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

Welcome to Decatur High's Earl Morris Gym: a humble yet accommodating venue from which few visitors have escaped with a win in the past two years.

Memorabilia of past Decatur championship teams in all sports are enshrined in the lobby as a constant reminder of the tradition that the players inside have inherited.

The current Red Raider seniors have guarded their home court well, only losing one game at home in the past two seasons.

The Red Raiders are a perfect 12-0 at home this season and were 8-1 in Earl Morris gym last season — losing only to Florence in their final home stand of the year. Fourth-ranked Decatur (24-5) will try to keep that streak alive, hosting Cullman (16-16) in a sub-regional game Friday night at 7.

Cullman lost to Hartselle 49-46 in the 5A, Area 13 finals, setting the matchup.

A win Friday night will send Decatur to Wallace State-Hanceville for next week's Northwest Regionals, while all losses from this point of the postseason are season-ending.

Decatur coach Jamie Lee said home-court advantage for Friday night was what was on the Red Raiders' minds as they took the court in the area finals.

"We've talked about the fact that we didn't want to get on a bus again until we made it to Wallace," Lee said Monday night after his team downed Muscle Shoals 70-67 at home in the 5A, Area 16 championship game.

It was obvious when the gym began filling up an hour before tipoff Monday night that the home crowd at Decatur expected to see a win.

And that is something that the Red Raiders have used to their advantage this season.

Decatur began the season ranked fourth in the Class 5A state poll and was touted as a team to beat in the preseason, and the expectations haven't wavered. The Red Raiders climbed to third for two weeks in late January.

It has added pressure, but players say the high expectations have been a positive.

"The pressure comes from fans, students, parents, teachers ... everybody," senior G Redus said.

"But it has been positive. We want to live up to the expectations — we don't want to let any one down. We want to play hard all the time, but especially now."

But the Red Raiders highest expectations may come from within.

The experienced and confident group includes 10 seniors who have focused on postseason goals as a team effort.

"I feel like we can win anywhere," senior Rolando McClain said. "Not to be cocky — I just have confidence in my team... With 10 seniors on the team, we know what we have to do."

Decatur has had to adjust to all the unique pressures of a season full of expectations, and Lee said that through the ups and downs the team's goals haven't changed.

Decatur has been talking "state championship" since preseason practice, but now it's time to make it a reality. And fittingly, the Red Raiders hope to take the next step in front of a home crowd Friday night.

"I think they've handled it all pretty well," Lee said. "They've had their eye on the prize and they've stayed focused on that. I'm proud for them and I just hope we can keep going."

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