By Richard Greene
With her team trailing with 1:58 left, Decatur’s Murphy Graham finally got some space at the top of the key.
The sophomore guard quickly put the ball up and then began to pray.
“The whole time I was saying Dear Jesus let it go in,” Graham said.
The prayer was answered as the ball swished through the net to put Decatur up for good in a 35-27 victory over Big Spring in the Class 3A Region I area tilt at Clyde High School.
The Lady Eagles, who trailed most of the night, scored the game’s final nine points. Graham had eight of them. She finished with a game-high 14 points, hitting three three-pointers.
“Murphy can score the ball,” said Decatur coach Billy Garner. “We were trying to get her open.”
With the victory, Decatur returns to the region quarterfinal for the second straight year to play Abilene Wylie at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. Tip is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Graham was one of two Decatur sophomores to turn in huge efforts. After senior Joey Redwine picked up two early fouls, Garner called on Katie Isham to take over guarding Big Spring’s leading scorer Cerbi Ritchy. Isham helped hold her to seven points and two field goals.
“Coach Garner prepared me for that situation,” Isham said. “I knew I had to be tough and keep her from getting to the basket.”
Garner was proud of the Isham’s effort underneath: “I told her we needed her to play big, and she did. I tried to go with a smaller lineup up, but we needed [Katie's] length in there.”
Isham also provided an offensive spark. Her short jumper with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter gave Decatur its first lead, 23-22.
“That motivated us, and it got me pumped up,” Isham said.
After Big Spring went back up three, Isham hit another jumper from the blocks to cut the deficit to one before Graham’s go-ahead trey.
Decatur was off for nearly a week off with the bye through bi-district. The Lady Eagles got off to a slow start going the first six minutes without a point. Decatur fell behind 8-0 to start the game.
Big Spring led 8-5 after the first quarter.
Big Spring went up eight, 18-10, with 2:41 left in the first half. Graham then sparked a 5-0 run with a three-pointer to bring Decatur within three, 18-15, at halftime.
Decatur held Big Spring to nine points in the second half and two field goals.
Redwine finished with six points for the Lady Eagles. Allie Handlon added four.
Decatur 35, Big Spring 27
Big Spring (23-10) – Mackenzie Stone 6, Mary King 8, Bridgette Tuitt 6, Cerbi Ritchey 7.
Decatur (26-5) – Bobbi Clemmer 2, Joey Redwine 6, Allie Handlon 4, Shelby Drews 2, Murphy Graham 14, Katie Isham 7.
3-point field goals: Big Spring 3 (King 2, Stone 1); Decatur 4 (Graham 3, Handlon 1). Free throws: Big Spring 5-8; Decatur 9-15. Turnovers: Big Spring 19; Decatur 10. Rebounding: Big Spring 30 (Ritchey 8); Decatur 23 (Handlon 5).