By Richard Greene
The Decatur Eagles’ winning streak and lone rule in District 7-3A are over.
Led by the timely shooting of Matt Tincher and Hunter Fincher, the Mineral Wells Rams handed the Eagles a 73-61 loss at Mineral Wells High School gym Tuesday.
The loss was the first district setback for the Eagles since 2010, ending their streak at 11 games. It also dropped Decatur (17-8, 3-1) into a three-way tie atop 7-3A with Mineral Wells and Centennial.
“This puts us in a tight race,” said Decatur sophomore point guard Taylor Clayton. “But I think it makes us stronger as a team. I expect us to come out Friday and play better.”
The Eagles will need to play better defensively as they allowed the Rams to shoot better than 45 percent Tuesday. In the first half on the way to building a pair of double-digit leads, Mineral Wells connected on 13 of its 30 attempts. The Rams were 5-for-7 from outside the three-point arc in the first two quarters and hit seven treys on the night.
“Field-goal percentage defense is what we hang our hat on,” said Decatur coach Roger Brown. “We failed as a team to contest their shots.”
Tincher and Fincher did the bulk of the damage. Tincher led all scorers with 23 points. He hit a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter to help the Rams out to an 18-5 lead in the first six minutes.
Fincher added 19 points, scoring 14 points in the second half. He hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter and extend the Rams lead back to 11, 54-43. He also went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final frame.
“They are great players,” Brown said. “We had two amazing games with them last year.”
The Eagles helped dig themselves a hole early with eight first-quarter turnovers, including one of the opening possession.
“It started off as a bad night and kept going,” Clayton said.
After falling behind by 13 points and later 10 in the second quarter, Decatur fought back to get within three, 35-32, on Parker Slate’s three-pointer with 11 seconds left in the half.
But Mineral Wells wasn’t finished. Off an inbounds play, Tincher buried a three as time ran out in the second quarter to put the Rams up six, 38-32, at the break.
“We would make a run, get there, and they’d hit a big shot,” Clayton said. “Our defense was not there tonight.”
In the fourth quarter, Decatur made one last surge trimming the Mineral Wells’ 10-point lead to five, 63-58, on Austin Lamirand’s three-pointer with 3:28 left.
Lamirand led the Eagles with 19 points before fouling out with 24 seconds remaining.
Mineral Wells’ Mikevin Singletary put an end to any thoughts of a Decatur comeback, hitting a pair of free throws and then making an open layup with 1:20 left to put the Rams back up nine, 67-58.
Brevon Blaylock added 11 points for the Eagles. Caleb Hogan and Slate chipped in eight apiece.