Austin Givens hit five of his seven shots in the first half for the Decatur Eagles – but it was his work on the defensive end early in the third quarter that changed the game.
The senior made back-to-back steals and layups to start a 17-4 Decatur run that opened up a 19-point lead on the way to a 74-66 victory over the Sanger Indians at Decatur High School gym.
“Coach was hounding us to pick up the defense,” said Givens, who scored a game-high 22. “I was trying to get the team fired up and get us playing the way we needed.”
With the victory, Decatur (21-5) clinched a share of the District 9-3A title for a second straight year. It’s the program’s third league title in four years. Decatur can take the title outright with a win in one of final two district games against Gainesville and Krum.
“Going back-to-back is an accomplishment,” said Decatur coach Drew Coffman. “I’m proud of the way they’ve fought and where they are.”
Decatur and Sanger, who entered separated by a game in the 9-3A standings, came out scorching the nets. The two combined to shoot 16-for-30 in the first quarter that ended deadlocked at 20.
Decatur shot 56 percent from the field, 25 of 44, for the game. The Eagles went to the line 27 times, knocking down 19.
Sanger finished 26-for-58 from the field, 44 percent.
The Eagles put together an 11-0 run capped by a Givens 3-pointer to take a 37-25 lead with three minutes left in the first half. Givens hit a pair of treys in the game.
“I felt really good shooting the ball. Taylor [Clayton] was driving and kicking it out for the open 3 like we work on,” Givens said.
Sanger cut the lead to eight, 42-34, with Garrett McLeod hitting a trey in the final seconds of the first half.
After Sanger scored the first basket of the second half, Givens got Decatur going with his two straight steals that led to layups. He was also fouled on both. The first he converted into a 3-point play. On the second, he missed the free throw but his teammate Paul Walker was there to grab the rebound. Walker then hit a pair of free throws to grow the lead to 13, 49-36.
He and his brother Philip each finished with 17 points. Paul Walker also grabbed nine rebounds.
Philip Walker’s 3-point play with 2:59 left in the third capped the 17-4 run that put Decatur up 19.
Sanger scored the final nine points of the frame to get back within 10, 59-49.
Tanner Thomas’ trey two minutes into the final quarter pulled Sanger within eight, 64-56, but the Indians never got closer.
Cain Lowe joined Givens and the Walkers in double figures with 12 points.