Over the hump: Eagles advance to first region tourney in 16 years

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, March 2, 2019
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Flying High

FLYING HIGH – Decatur’s Triston Read (13) celebrates with teammates moments after the Eagles’ 79-42 win over Burkburnett in the 4A Region I quarterfinal Tuesday night. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Wilson Hicks picked the perfect moment to have one of the best games of his senior season.

After surrendering an early lead and allowing Burkburnett to go on a 15-3 push, Hicks took matters into his own hands late in the first half Tuesday night. With 26.3 seconds until the intermission, Burkburnett’s Deandre Munoz was whistled for a personal foul and then a technical foul.

RISING TO THE OCCASION – Decatur’s Wilson Hicks goes up for a layup during Tuesday night’s 4A Region I quarterfinal win over Burkburnett. Hicks led all scorers with 25 points, helping the Eagles advance to their first regional tournament since 2003. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Bulldogs were already in the double bonus, sending Hicks to the charity stripe for four free throws. He knocked them all down, and on the ensuing possession, drilled a 3-pointer just for good measure.

The trey punctuated an 11-0 run in which Hicks did all the scoring, as Decatur routed the Bulldogs 79-42 in the 4A Region I quarterfinal at Midwestern State University.

“I think it was [the turning point],” Hicks said. “It changed momentum going into halftime. It was huge for us. It started with the free throws – I knocked down four in a row, which was a huge confidence booster. When that three came my way, I wasn’t going to hesitate, and I just threw it up. I’m glad it went in.”

Hicks led all scorers with 25 points, shooting 75 percent from the floor. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc and added eight rebounds and three assists.

“He was huge,” said Decatur coach Drew Coffman of Hicks. “I definitely think he was the most valuable player tonight for us, but you expect that from a senior, to come in and make big plays in a big game like this. I was really proud he did it.”

Hicks’ performance secured Decatur a spot in the regional tournament for the first time since 2003. The Eagles played Estacado in the 4A Region I semifinal Friday night at Lubbock Christian University.

The winner of that game will play the winner of Graham and Levelland in the 4A Region I final at 6 p.m. Saturday night.

“When this season first started, we talked about winning district and getting to Lubbock,” Hicks said. “I think whenever we click like this on offense and defense we’re a scary team.”

Ethan Southard and Grayson Harris also finished in double figures for Decatur. Southard tallied 13 points and eight rebounds, while Harris poured in 12 points and snared nine boards.

Decatur outscored Burkburnett 64-23 over the final three quarters, holding the Bulldogs to just 31 percent shooting. The Eagles out-rebounded Burkburnett 42-20.

Moving On

MOVING ON – Decatur knocked off Burkburnett 79-42 in the 4A Region I quarterfinal Tuesday night at Midwestern State University. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We talked about closing out possessions,” Coffman said. “We got them to miss some shots early in the game, but then they got second shots. I thought we did a better job in the second half of only giving them one shot.”

Coffman credited several bench players for helping Decatur go on a 26-8 run in the third quarter and ultimately build a 39-point lead by the final frame.

“I thought some guys were key off the bench – Layton Harris, Triston Read, Noah Young, Carson Tibbels – they gave us great minutes and really closed the third quarter out, which kind of sealed the deal for us,” Coffman said.

The Eagles (35-3) have now won 15 straight games dating back to Jan. 4 and have more than doubled their win total (17) from a season ago.

After failing to get past the third round of the playoffs in 2013, 2015 and 2016 under Coffman, Decatur has now cleared the hurdle of the region quarterfinal – and is back in the region tournament for the first time in 16 years.

“It means a lot,” Coffman said. “It was a goal of ours. It’s one thing to set a goal. It’s another thing to go get it. These guys did that.”

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