Liberty Hill stuns Decatur, ends Eagles’ season on buzzer beater

By Reece Waddell | Published Friday, March 8, 2019.
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With the clock bleeding inside 10 seconds and trailing by a point, Liberty Hill frantically pushed the ball up the floor.

After nearly committing a turnover at the top of the key, the Panthers swung the ball to Parker McCurdy, alone in the corner. McCurdy stepped into the shot in rhythm, and as the horn sounded, the ball found nothing but net.

Liberty Hill’s Parker McCurdy #5 scrambles with Decatur’s Triston Read #13 for a loose ball. UIL boys basketball 4A State semi-final between Decatur and Liberty Hill on Friday, March 8, 2019 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (Ron Cortes/ Special Contributor)

Liberty Hill’s bench spilled onto the court, while Decatur’s bench was shell-shocked, as the Panthers ended the Eagles’ storybook season 53-51 Friday in the 4A semifinal at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“They made a rotation and our defense didn’t get there in time,” said Decatur coach Drew Coffman. “The kid made an incredible shot. He’s to be commended for staying with the possession, because I thought we had them in a tough spot for a little bit. They made the right play and congratulations to them.”

Decatur (37-4) finishes with the program’s best record. It was the Eagles’ first trip to the state tournament.

“[Coach] said there’s no blame to be put on anybody,” said Decatur junior Gage Rieger. “It just didn’t roll our way this time.”

Liberty Hill outscored Decatur 18-5 in the fourth quarter after trailing by as much as 16 in the third period. The Panthers forced 18 turnovers and cashed those miscues into 16 points.

Decatur’s Gage Rieger #11 hangs his head after a technical on him late in game. UIL boys basketball 4A State semi-final between Liberty Hill v Decatur on Friday, March 8, 2019 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (Ron Cortes/ Special Contributor)

The Eagles had a chance to put the game away with under a minute left, but missed layups and free throws down the stretch to leave the door open for Liberty Hill.

“We’ve had some struggles offensively at times,” Coffman said. “I think we got a few shots we liked. We just weren’t able to put them in. We had a couple at the basket that just didn’t go in. We missed a couple of free throws that hurt us.”

Decatur took its largest lead, 36-20, with 5:56 left in the third quarter. From there, the Panthers started whittling it away.

Ethan Southard fouled out late in the fourth quarter and Rieger was called for a technical foul with 1:29 remaining. Rieger led all scorers with 15 points. Hicks added 11 points and eight rebounds.

Grayson Harris tallied 10 points and pulled down five boards.

“[I told them in timeouts] just stay the course,” Coffman said. “Obviously, they had momentum and things were going their way. We kind of had some fumbling the ball and throwing the ball away.

“Defense was our backbone all year long. We kept on telling them if we can get one more stop they can’t set up their press and they can’t score. Unfortunately, it was just one possession short.”

The loss snapped Decatur’s 17-game winning streak that dated back to early January. It was also the first time the Eagles surrendered more than 50 points in the playoffs.

“Our kids, man, I love these guys to death,” Coffman said. “They deserve better than the outcome they got, but that’s athletics and that’s how it works.”


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