After Derrick Stanford’s layup put the Bridgeport Bulls up 21-17 midway through the second quarter, Decatur coach Drew Coffman called a timeout to talk to his team.
“Sometimes in a game like this, emotions are too high,” Coffman said. “They needed to calm down. We were forcing things that were not there. I just wanted to tell them to slow down and be patient.”
Coffman’s message quickly turned the Eagles and the game around. Decatur responded with a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the first half on the way to a 62-42 victory over the Bulls at Bridgeport High School gym.
The eighth-ranked Eagles (20-5) moved to 5-0 in District 9-3A.
Bridgeport (11-13) fell to 1-4 in the league but remains in position to grab the final playoff spot. The Bulls have three remaining games, including two at home.
“It’s important to grab the next three,” Stanford said. “All we can do is play our butts off and hope for the best.”
In the first quarter-and-half, Bridgeport went toe-to-toe with the state-ranked Eagles. The Bulls led throughout the first quarter until Philip Walker’s basket in the final half-minute tied the score at 14.
“We had a good game plan. That first quarter and four minutes, we couldn’t ask for much better,” said Bridgeport coach Alan Green.
Bridgeport regained the lead early in the second behind a pair of baskets and free throws from Stanford, who finished with 21 points.
“With our motion offense, we were playing well,” Stanford said. “My teammates were spreading the floor and allowing me to get to the hole.”
Following Coffman’s timeout, the Eagles turned the game around with seven straight points. Cain Lowe’s shot inside put the Eagles up for the first time 22-21.
“We weren’t being patient enough on offense,” Lowe said. “Coach said we needed to settle down and we did.”
Decatur held Bridgeport to two free throws over the final four minutes of the first half as they poured in 15 points over the same period. Decatur hit a pair of 3-pointers in the span, including Holt Garner’s trey at the buzzer after officials put a second back on the clock.
In the second half, the Eagles worked the ball inside to Lowe and Paul Walker. Lowe scored 11 of his 21 in the second half as Decatur added to its lead.
“We were trying to see who had the best matchup and attack the people that coach wanted us to attack,” Lowe said.
Coffman added: “You can always count on Cain to show in a big game. This is a big game for us, and he definitely showed up.”
Walker added 12 points, as did Austin Givens.
Givens’ layup and foul shot with 1:11 left in the third put Decatur up 15, 46-31.
Decatur led by 13 going into the fourth quarter.
Lowe’s layup with 3:07 left pushed the lead to 20, 59-39.