By Richard Greene
Behind a stifling defense that forced 12 turnovers before giving up a point, the Decatur Lady Eagles jumped out to an early lead against the rival Bridgeport Sissies Friday.
The Lady Eagles (24-5, 9-0) turned to point guard Allie Handlon to protect the lead and deliver the second straight outright District 7-3A title with a 42-27 win at Bridgeport High School.
Handlon scored a game-high 19 points, including going 13-for-14 from the free-throw line, in the title-clinching game.
But Handlon was already looking forward to Tuesday’s 7-3A finale against Burleson Centennial and an opportunity to complete the sweep of the league.
“This feels good, but we can’t mess it up like last year with a 9-1 record,” she said. “We want to be undefeated.”
Decatur coach Billy Garner did pause to praise his team on the accomplishment.
“The kids work hard and they deserve it,” he said.
Bridgeport (16-12) dropped a second straight game, falling to 5-4 in the district. The Sissies will try to build some momentum before starting the playoffs as the third seed out of 7-3A in the regular season finale against Castleberry.
“We need a win. We really do,” said Bridgeport point guard Lauren Hart.
The Sissies will need to avoid another start like Friday. Bridgeport turned the ball over on its first six possessions and 14 times in the first quarter. The Sissies scored just one point in the first quarter, going 0-for-3 from the field.
“You can’t have a first quarter like tonight and expect good things to happen,” said Bridgeport coach Dallas Taylor.
Bridgeport had trouble in the first quarter against Decatur’s full-court press.
“By what we were doing in the first half, we really frustrated them,” Garner said.
While controlling the game on defense, Decatur struggled to score against Bridgeport. The Lady Eagles were just 2-for-8 from the field in the first quarter to grab a 7-1 lead.
“In our offensive sets, we had a hard time scoring again against them,” Garner said.
Decatur turned the ball over 24 times and failed to reached 60 points for the first time in four games.
“I think we are only team in the district that can hold them to 40 points,” Taylor said. “We played great defensively again.”
Handlon found a way to generate points in the second quarter, driving the ball to the basket and getting to the free-throw line. She knocked down all four of her attempts in the frame, while also hitting a shot at the top of the key and a layup.
“Garner told me I needed to drive, and I did what he told me,” Handlon said.
Her two free throws with 1:07 left in the half put Decatur up 21-9.
“We’ve been talking in practice about her driving in and drawing fouls on them,” Garner said. “She did an excellent job doing what we asked.”
Decatur led 21-12 at halftime and took a 30-22 advantage into the fourth quarter.
With 5:28 remaining, Hart hit her second three-pointer to pull the Sissies within seven, 34-27.
The Sissies could get no closer as they went scoreless the rest of the way.
Decatur went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch to pull away. The Lady Eagles hit 17 of their 20 free throws in the game.