With three posts at 5-10 or taller, Decatur used its length down low to capture the top seed in District 9-3A.
But with the season on the line Wednesday, the Lady Eagles went small.
Decatur’s smaller lineup turned around a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter, sparking an 18-4 run that propelled the Lady Eagles to a 46-35 Class 3A Region II bi-district victory over the Aubrey Lady Chaparrals at Flower Mound Marcus’ Marauder Gym.
“I had to think about who I wanted out there defensively because I know he [Aubrey coach Johnny Hodge] likes to hold the ball,” said Decatur coach Billy Garner. “I took the size out and went with some quicker people. It worked out.”
With the victory, Decatur moved on to play Princeton in the area round Friday at Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
Aubrey opened the second half on a 15-4 run and had built a 27-18 lead with 2:53 left in the third when Garner called the timeout to alter his lineup. He brought in Makayla Mayfield to pressure the ball up top. He also shifted Shelby Drews inside to guard Aubrey post Kendyl Wright, who scored 13 points in the third quarter. Wright finished with a double-double of 25 points and 10 boards.
Decatur ended the quarter on a 10-2 run to pull back within one, 29-28, going into the final frame.
The Lady Eagles continued the run at the start of the fourth.
Drews held Wright to a pair of free throws and Mayfield’s work on the perimeter kept Aubrey from setting up its offense as the Lady Eagles denied Wright the ball.
“We were supposed to be doing that the whole game. We did a better job [in the fourth quarter],” Garner said. “Shelby is a step quicker and doesn’t mind mixing it up inside.”
Aubrey turned the ball over five times and made just one field goal in the final frame.
“They went small. Our point guard was out [with foul trouble] and they pressured us,” said Aubrey coach Johnny Hodge. “We couldn’t get into anything and they took advantage of it. It was smart to go small. It gave us trouble.”
Along with taking on the tough assignment on the defensive end, Drews led the charge for the Lady Eagles on offense down the stretch. She hit a 12-foot jumper in the corner to bring Decatur within one, 31-30. She then hit a pair of free throws to put the Lady Eagles in front.
“You get involved defensively, you can do a lot of things offensively,” Garner said. “She definitely picked up the defensive tempo.”
Drews scored 19 of her 22 points in the second half. She had 12 in the fourth, hitting several jump shots from 10 to 12 feet out.
“They were guarding the drive, so I said I guess I’ll just shoot it. Luckily it went in,” Drews said.
“I was frustrated. Coach Garner talked to me and told me I had to calm down. That motivated me to do better on the defensive end and the offensive end.”
Drews’ layup extended Decatur’s lead to 36-31. After Wright hit two free throws, Drews drew Wright’s fifth foul with 3:35 remaining. Aubrey managed only two free throws after Wright fouled out.
Both teams struggled in the first half, going scoreless in the second quarter. Decatur led 14-12 at the break after shooting 4-for-20. After Aubrey held the ball for more than a minute of the second quarter, they went 4-for-16 with nine turnovers in the first half.