Fitzgerald shines, Lady Eagles beat Glen Rose for bi-district title

By Reece Waddell | Published Monday, February 11, 2019.
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At practice prior to Monday night’s 4A Region I bi-district contest with Glen Rose, Decatur coach Lindsay Griffin noticed her starting point guard, Kylee Fitzgerald, had found a rhythm shooting from the outside.

“She hit a lot of shots in practice the other day and I asked her ‘What ball is that? That’s going to be the game ball,’” Griffin said. “And that’s the game ball we used tonight, so we’re sticking with it.”

Coincidence or not, Griffin’s hunch seemed to pay dividends.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

Fitzgerald led all scorers with 14 points and shot 60 percent from beyond the arc, leading the Lady Eagles to a 38-32 bi-district title at Weatherford High School. It was Decatur’s first playoff victory since the 2015-2016 season.

“I think it was just the flow of the game,” said Fitzgerald of her performance. “I was ready and [the shots] were falling. This is huge. It’s so exciting. I think it gives us the confidence we need going into our other playoff games.”

The Lady Eagles improved to 26-8 with the win. Decatur will play Big Spring in the 4A Region I area round later this week.

“For the program, this is great as we try to bring that tradition back,” Griffin said.  “For our confidence, it’s really good. Kylee is the only one who has any playoff experience in this sport. It was a huge breath for us to take after the game. They got one under their belt. Now we can relax and play from here on out.”

Fitzgerald gave Decatur its first lead of the game in the first quarter on an and-one in transition. The junior drove the lane and finished through contact, forcing Glen Rose to burn an early timeout.

Later in the third quarter, Fitzgerald stepped into a 3-pointer and found bottom to give the Lady Eagles their largest lead of the game at 21-11.

Decatur’s leading scorer, freshman Grace Lowery, returned to the starting lineup Monday after missing the last four games with a knee injury. In her return, Lowery tallied 10 points, including a key step-back trey late in the fourth quarter. Fitzgerald credited Lowery, along with her other teammates, in helping get her quality shots.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

“[Lowery] is a really big threat for us,” Fitzgerald said. “Teams come in ready to guard her and it opens [the game] up for everyone else.”

Katie Hale added eight points off the bench, scoring all of them in the first quarter. Mackenzie Whitaker poured in four points and 11 rebounds, cleaning the glass for the Lady Eagles.

Whitaker was also the anchor of Decatur’s defense that surrendered just 11 first-half points.

“We hit some big shots and most importantly played defense,” Griffin said. “We wouldn’t have come away with that one if we didn’t play that well on the defensive end.

“Mackenzie is huge on the boards for us. She can pull away some rebounds that don’t even bounce her way. If we can get her scoring like she has in the past few games we’re going to be dangerous.”

The victory was Griffin’s first playoff win as Decatur’s coach. The Lady Eagles now move on to the area round, where their last win came Feb. 14, 2014 against Princeton.

“It’s good to have a playoff win back in the program and for those girls to have a gold ball with their names on it,” Griffin said. “It’s exciting. We’re going to try to get as many as we can from here on out.”

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