Decatur starting post Katie Isham picked up two quick fouls and never escaped foul trouble all night Tuesday, fouling out in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
With the Lady Eagles needing someone to pick up Isham’s minutes in the post, Macen Stripling stepped forward. Stripling came off the bench to pour in 17 points and grab nine rebounds to lead Decatur to a 58-28 victory over the Bridgeport Sissies at Bridgeport High School gym.
“Every time Katie fouls out, I feel it’s my responsibility to step up and help the team,” Stripling said. “It’s sad when she fouls out because she’s such a good player and we need her.”
With the victory, Decatur (20-5, 4-2) kept pace in the tight District 9-3A title race. With one game remaining, the Lady Eagles are one game back of Gainesville, who was idle Tuesday. Decatur is tied with Krum, who beat Sanger Tuesday.
“It gives us a chance. It’ll depend on what the others do,” said Decatur coach Billy Garner.
Bridgeport (12-10, 0-6) has two games remaining. The Sissies could force a tie for fourth place with a win over Sanger Friday.
The Sissies will need a better showing than Tuesday when they managed only six field goals and turned the ball over 25 times. Bridgeport also failed to take advantage of Decatur’s foul trouble, hitting 17 of its 28 free throws.
“Turnovers and poor shooting,” said Bridgeport coach Dallas Taylor. “On the offensive end, we got them in foul trouble but did a bad job of capitalizing on it.”
Decatur struggled shooting the ball early, going 5-for-15 from the field in the opening frame. But the Lady Eagles were able to turn to defense to create turnovers and hold Bridgeport to just three points in the opening frame to take an 11-3 lead.
“Our defense was good other than fouling too much,” Garner said. “We couldn’t make anything early but we played good defense and rebounded well. That’s what you have to do.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Murphy Graham in an 8-0 run to start the second quarter helped the Lady Eagles build a 19-5 lead. Graham finished with 16 points.
Decatur outscored Bridgeport 20-9 in the frame, building a 31-12 halftime lead.
In the second half, Decatur turned to Stripling in the post. She scored 11 of her 17 in the second half.
“She did a heck of a job. When Katie got in foul trouble, she came in and stepped up,” Garner said.
Stripling also had six of her nine boards in the second half.
“What I focused on tonight was rebounding more,” she said. “I wanted to use my height and hops.”
Decatur led by 29, 47-18, going into the fourth quarter. The Lady Eagles built the lead to 30 with Traci Hale’s putback in the fourth quarter.
Shelby Drews finished with 11 points for the Lady Eagles.
Megan Sturdivant led the Sissies with nine points. Landrie Walsh added seven.