By Brandon Evans
The Decatur Eagles nearly wreaked revenge against the Hirschi Huskies Friday night in a class 3A Region I area playoff game held at the gym of the rival Bridgeport Bulls.
After rallying back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter, Decatur clawed their way back to make it a one possession match. They were inches from sending the game into overtime as a three-point try from the corner by senior forward Caleb Hogan arced just right of the rim as time expired. The scoreboard glowed 65-62.
“It was the old coaching cliche that we ran out of time,” said head coach Roger Brown. “We needed 30 more seconds and another timeout.
Despite both teams entering the contest equipped with able scorers, including Huskies’ junior guard Marcus Foster who averages more than 20 points per game, the first period was defensive. Cautious, scrappy play left the Huskies in a narrow 12-8 lead at the end of the period.
Six minutes into the second period, sophomore guard Cameron Mize rips down a defensive board. He sends the ball to senior guard Austin Lamirand who drops a nothing but net trey, putting the Eagles within one at 13-12.
But the Huskies respond promptly. The 5-10 sophomore guard Terrance Cooper pulls out the sniper and drops a slew of threes. Hirschi pulls to a 28-15 lead with two minutes left in the first half. They enter the half with a 35-20 lead. Cooper was perfect on three-point attempts in the first half, hitting four of four. He finished the night as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points and hitting with 83 percent accuracy from the floor.
Hirschi maintained the lead through the third, building up to a 42-24 lead with 4:26 left in the period. They entered the fourth quarter with a 52-37 lead.
Foster, who Decatur managed to hold to 14 points, put on a brief show here. Busting a dribble through three Eagle defenders, the 6-3 guard went airborne and jammed it in the basket.
Decatur calls a timeout, and comes out charged. Junior guard Jared Durdon pushes through defenders and finger rolls a high-arcing layup that falls true after making a daring offensive rebound. Lamirand follows with a trey. And with some points from junior guard Parker Slate and scrappy plays by Hogan, Decatur is within three as the game ends.
“This was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” Brown said. “(The team) showed a lot of courage, and they left it all on the floor tonight.”
It was apparent how proud Brown of the way the team played. The fans felt the same. Scores of students, former students, parents and other fans waited to greet the players as they exited from the double doors at the back of the gym.
Brown gave a lot of credit to his three seniors, Lamirand, Brevon Blaylock and Hogan, who were only in the eighth grade when Brown took over the program.
Hogan finished the game as the Eagles’ high scorer with 15. Slate had 12 and Lamirand added 11. Austin givens added eight.
The game was very physical and rife with fouls on both sides. Each team racked up 22 apiece. Blaylock fouled out with almost five left in the game. And big 6-5 senior post Terry Fields for the Huskies fouled out less than a minute later.