The Decatur High boys may have finally found a true point guard during Saturday afternoon's 52-42 win over Wesleyan at The Spike.
Senior Kendall Ford, a transfer from Paideia (though he’d spent his middle school years at Renfroe), had 12 points, three assists, three turnovers, and generally proved a steady hand in starting his second consecutive game, scoring double figures in both.
In fact, for much of the second half Decatur coach Charlie Copp featured a three-guard lineup in Ford, junior Adarius Lucas and sophomore Devontae Carter.
This trio helped Decatur lengthen a four-point lead (33-29) with 7:38 left in the game to 10 points two-and-a half minutes later, a margin it mostly maintained until the final buzzer.
“It’s just the way the game was dictated,” Copp said. “I don’t plan to go with three guards, but tonight we still have several guys sick, and I used who was playing well and who we had available.”
Earlier in the afternoon the Decatur girls lost 51-37 to powerful Wesleyan, ranked first in AA, and one of the state’s best teams regardless of classification.
For the boys, with leading scorer Murad Dillard and reserve guard Tyler Axem still suffering from the flu, and starting point forward Cordele Jackson in persistent foul trouble (the three played sparingly and none scored), Copp improvised by using the quicksilver trio of guards.
All three had three pointers, but Ford displayed bona fide point-guard instincts with his well-timed passes and slick ball-handling.
“He made plays, he made shots,” said Copp who, though pleased, wasn’t yet ready to proclaim Ford the full-time starter.
It helped that senior post Brett Riley played his best game of the season with 11 points and eight rebounds, while junior forward Davante Meadows had 12 points and eight rebounds. Rapidly-improving reserve post Noah Fisher added six points and six rebounds.
Decatur opened the game with five straight points, -- a three pointer from Lucas and a runner in the paint from Ford – and trailed only once, at 6-5, with 2:47 left in the first quarter. Wesleyan managed to tie it at 25 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but a drive from Lucas with 1:30 left put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.
It was only Decatur’s second win in five games against Wesleyan, the other one coming on Feb. 9, 2007.
Will Clifton, a fearless, aggressive 6-3 guard had a game-high 20 points for Wesleyan, now 3-6.
One drawback for the Bulldogs continues to be a defense that allows way too much penetration. Decatur fouled enough to give Wesleyan 23 free throws (making only 12), while Decatur hit 8 of 13 from the line.
“We have to do a better job of getting in position,” Copp said. “We have to get lower in our stance, and we need to move quicker. We are improving, and we have good enough athletes to be a good defensive team. But we’re not there yet.”
Decatur made 20 of 38 shots from the floor (Wesleyan had only 11 field goals) for 53 percent, including 16 of 29 two-pointers. Now with two straight wins, the Bulldogs are 5-3.
The girls meanwhile hung tough against a team which not only has won eight consecutive state championships on either the A or AA level, but whose current starting lineup has four Division I signees.
Wesleyan improved to 8-0 this season, but had only one player in double figures in senior Katie Frerking, who’s signed with Auburn, and who had 12 points, five assists and three blocks.
Decatur actually led 12-11 after one quarter, and cut it to six points midway through the fourth. But the Bulldogs could never quite negotiate Wesleyan’s relentless full-court man-to-man pressure, described by Decatur coach Bill Roberts as “thirty-two minutes of absolute face guarding.”
The result was 25 turnovers and a lot of transition points for the visitors, the difference in this game. Wesleyan’s half-court offense, if repetitive and not very imaginative, only resulted in five turnovers. The Wolves drew enough fouls to make 15 of 19 free throws.
Decatur’s Jordan Dillard led all scorers with 14 points, while Kori Anderson added eight and Jayla Morrow had seven.
The Decatur girls are now 6-2.
The Bulldogs play their final pre-Christmas game at The Spike this Thursday against Jefferson, the boys at 7 p.m., the girls at 8:30. The Jefferson boys are 4-3, the girls 6-2.