Waddell column: Decatur silences critics during historic run

By Reece Waddell | Published Friday, March 8, 2019.
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After getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Decatur Eagles set out on a mission few thought they could accomplish.

Their first goal of winning a district championship seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream with perennial power Argyle standing in the way. Decatur’s second goal, getting to the regional tournament and winning it, was laughable to most given the Eagles were not ranked in any preseason poll.

Decatur did both.

In numerous conversations with coach Drew Coffman throughout the year, winning a state championship was never explicitly mentioned as a goal, but one can only imagine it was the third item on the Eagles’ list.

After more than three months of tireless work, Decatur’s season came to an end on a last-second shot by Liberty Hill in the 4A semifinal Friday in San Antonio.

Less than a year removed from posting a 17-17 record, the Eagles (37-4) ended the 2018-2019 season with the best mark in program history.

Reece Waddell

“Obviously, we always want one more,” Coffman said. “We definitely would like to have a chance to play at 7 o’clock [Saturday] night [in the championship], but it didn’t go our way.

“We talk about next play, and sometimes in life you have to move on to the next play. That’s what we’ll do with ourselves and our team.”

While the way Decatur’s season ended was agonizing, the Eagles have nothing to be ashamed of.

Decatur went undefeated in District 8-4A play, beating Argyle twice to claim a league title. In the playoffs, the Eagles waded through several challenges, only to find themselves at the Alamodome two wins from their first state title.

“It’s meant a lot, to say the least,” said Decatur junior Gage Rieger. “I feel like the majority of my life has revolved around these guys, working with them. It’s tough to see it end.”

Decatur’s Wilson Hicks #10 walks away after losing to Liberty Hill in the 4A semifinal. 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)

Decatur senior Wilson Hicks, who was the unquestioned leader of the team, put on one final show in the 4A semifinal. The Oklahoma State baseball commit finished two rebounds shy of a double-double, recording eight rebounds and 11 points.

Hicks conceded it was gut-wrenching to see his high school basketball career come to an abrupt halt.

“Most of us, actually all of us, played all the way through last summer and into the fall,” Hicks said. “We’ve been together a lot. For me, as a senior leaving these guys is going to be tough. They’re going to have a really good team next year.”

Decatur may have fallen two wins short of its ultimate goal, but the Eagles’ run to the state tournament is one few will forget.

Especially those who doubted them.

“We were predicted to finish third in our district, and we’re going to finish third in the state,” Coffman said. “You hear people talk all the time about educators and coaches inspiring people. These guys inspired me. They made me want to be better and coach better. Even though it wasn’t the ending we wanted, I think there’s a lot of things I can be proud of. I’m glad I’m their coach. I’m really proud I got to coach these guys.”

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