With 39 seconds left in the third quarter, Decatur’s Austin Givens fouled Celina’s Caleb Knowles, sending him to the free-throw line for three game-tying shots.
Givens responded to the foul by hitting a runner and drawing a foul on the other end to start his own personal 8-0 run that put the Decatur Eagles back in front for good on the way to a 66-50 victory in the Class 3A Region II bi-district game at Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club.
Givens denied the two strong drives to the basket that drew foul shots and a 3-pointer from the corner were in response to his foul.
“It was not by that. It was by coach [Drew Coffman] telling us seniors that we needed to step up and start making plays,” said Givens, who finished with a team-high 17 points.
Givens’ eight straight points, bridging the end of the third and the start of the fourth, began an 18-5 run that put the Eagles up 13, 55-42, midway through the final frame.
Decatur knocked down seven free throws in the final three minutes to keep Celina at bay and preserve the program’s first playoff win since 2012.
But the win was not easy for the 9-3A champions against the fourth seed out of 10-3A as the Eagles got off to a slow start. Decatur turned the ball over 11 times in the first half.
“I don’t know if it was the layoff or Celina,” Coffman said. “I was happy to get out with a win. We didn’t win a playoff game last year. I was hoping we’d come out relaxed. But we were uptight in the first half. We’ll have to come out and play better Friday to win.”
Decatur moved on to play Dallas Roosevelt.
Along with the early turnovers, the Eagles had to deal with early foul trouble for starters Paul and Philip Walker. Coffman went to his bench and turned to Cade Lamirand, Harry Boatman and Dallin Billmire for heavy minutes. The trio combined for 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“They were huge. They saved us in the first half,” Coffman said.
Boatman put the Eagles in front 17-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Decatur started the second quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 25-16 lead midway through the frame. But the Eagles managed only four more points before the half, and Celina cut the deficit to four, 29-25, at halftime.
After Decatur took a six-point lead on a Philip Walker shot in the third quarter, Knowles hit a 3-pointer and the three free throws off Givens’ foul to tie the game at 37.
Knowles finished with 13 points. Riley Nebeker also had 13 for the Bobcats.
Starting with Givens’ eight-point run, the Eagles found their rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 26 points. Paul Walker scored six of his 14 in the frame. Philip Walker put in six of his 12 in the fourth.
Cain Lowe finished with 13 points as the fourth Eagle in double figures.