By Richard Greene
Needing a spark in a tight game, the Decatur Eagles took a chance on history repeating itself Tuesday night, and it did.
The Eagles dug out the full-court press they implored last year to pull away from the Bridgeport Bulls to start the fourth quarter. The move sparked a 10-0 run that allowed the Eagles to put away the 46-33 win over the Bulls at Decatur High School gym.
“It’s what we did last year in the same situation,” said Decatur coach Roger Brown. “We went to it earlier last year, coming out in it in the third quarter. This time we felt like we were guarding good, we just weren’t scoring. We changed it for the offense.”
Decatur (16-7) moved to 2-0 in District 7-3A with victory.
Bridgeport (10-14) fell to 0-2 in the league.
“We’ve got to come in with the right mental focus and expect to be successful,” said Bridgeport coach Brian Miller. “We’re young and we just need to turn the corner.”
Bridgeport’s defense had them in the game and in front for nearly the entire first half. The Eagles did not grab a lead until Brevon Blaylock hit a pair of free throws with 48 seconds left in the first half to put them up 19-18.
Blaylock’s free throws capped a 6-0 run for Decatur over the final 3:40 of the first half. Bridgeport, which had led 18-13 before Decatur’s run, went an additional 3:20 of the third quarter before finally getting back on the scoreboard.
“We go up five in the second quarter and then we score only one point till there’s two minutes left in the third,” Miller said. “You can’t score one point in almost a quarter of play and win.”
Even with Bridgeport’s struggles on offense, Decatur couldn’t pull away. After the Eagles went up six, 28-22, Bridgeport fought back to get within two, 28-26, entering the fourth quarter.
The Eagles were 10-for-29 from field through the first three quarters against Bridgeport’s defense.
“They are really good defensively,” said Decatur center Caleb Hogan, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Bridgeport held Decatur’s Austin Lamirand to six points through the first three frames.
“We ran a number of sets for him,” Brown said. “Give Bridgeport credit. They play good defense.”
But the Bulls’ hard work on defense could not overcome the miscues in the backcourt in the fourth quarter. Against Decatur’s press, Bridgeport turned the ball over on four of its first six possessions of the frame. Two of the turnovers led to layups for Lamirand. His layup-and-one off a fifth foul by Cameron King put Decatur up 36-26.
“We just didn’t execute,” said Bridgeport guard Blake Thompson, who scored 22 points. “Usually we break the press without a problem.”
Miller added: “They did the same thing to us last year. They did a good job of taking advantage of our mistakes. It looked like some people didn’t want the ball, and we weren’t aggressive against the press.”
Lamirand stretched the lead to 14, 43-29, with his only three-pointer with 1:54 remaining. Lamirand finished with 16 points.