Daily photo by John Godbey|
Decatur High's G Redus scores over a block attempt by West End's Michael McCree in the first round of the Northwest Regionals in Hanceville on Tuesday. Decatur won 53-32.
Muscle Shoals is next
Decatur proves to be dead end for West End in the regionals
By Brooke Milam
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HANCEVILLE — On paper, the Class 5A Decatur Red Raiders were a heavy favorite over West End-Birmingham as play opened in the semifinal round of the Northwest Regionals at Wallace State on Tuesday.
As predicted, the Red Raiders walked away with a 53-32 win. But in the spirit of the postseason they had to work hard to get it, turning a one-point game at halftime into a convincing victory that ended West End's season at 11-17.
Decatur senior Jarodiaus Willingham said he knows that records mean nothing this time of year and that the Lions put up the kind of fight he expected from a regional qualifier.
"Them making it here — it wasn't a fluke. Those boys play hard," Willingham said.
"They made it real ugly."
Decatur (26-5) will play Muscle Shoals (26-6), an 82-75 triple overtime winner over Wenonah, in the regional finals Friday at 10:40 a.m.
The 5A fourth-ranked Red Raiders have beaten 10th-ranked Muscle Shoals three times this season, but Decatur coach Jamie Lee said he emphasized to his players that the next contest is the one that counts with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Birmingham next week.
"We told them in the locker room that we can't overlook (Muscle Shoals) just because we've beaten them. Every game was close with them and could've gone either way," Lee said following Tuesday's semifinal win.
"The other thing we wanted to tell them is that the other three don't mean anything now." On Tuesday, West End made Decatur earn its trip to the finals.
Six lead changes in the first quarter saw the Lions ahead 11-9 when the period expired.
As the Red Raiders battled from behind in the second, a Rolando McClain layup from Rishard Tapscott pass tied the score at 15 with 1:45 left until the half.
West End went back up 17-15 before Mark Mason drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer that put Decatur up a point at the intermission.
"It's not a game we're used to really — we're used to scoring points and (West End) did a great job in the first half keeping the score low and making sure they were in it," Lee
Decatur used free throws to increase its lead to 21-17 in the opening minutes of the third quarter and a Willingham put back made it 23-17 Decatur with 3:40 to play in the third.
McClain upped Decatur's advantage to 25-17 a minute later, capping a 7-0 scoring run for the Red Raiders, and Decatur
was ahead 28-19 after three quarters.
Decatur held West End to two points for the quarter.
"They started taking it inside and sort of wore my guys down," West-End coach Reginald McGary said.
Inside threats Willingham and McClain dominated the paint to lead Decatur.
Willingham finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and McClain followed with 14 points and 12 boards and two blocked shots.
The first double-digit lead of the game came in the fourth quarter when a layup by Willingham put Decatur ahead 30-20 with 6:15 to play, as the Red Raiders outscored the Lions 25-13 in the final period to pull away.
Decatur's Rico Pickett scored seven of his eight points in the final two minutes of the game, including a slam dunk assisted by Willingham.
Pickett returned the favor with 1:25 left to play, assisting Willingham on a dunk that put Decatur ahead by 20 points, 50-30, and ignited the Red Raider crowd.
"Number 11 (Pickett) — he just put us on his back," Willingham said.
Pickett finished with eight points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal.
"I wasn't shooting the ball good, so I was trying to play good defense and get everybody involved," Pickett said.
West End was led by Christopher Jones' nine points and five rebounds, while teammates Ladarius Welch and Dana Foy each scored eight. Welch also had four steals.
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