Senior Jordan Dillard hit a free throw with 1.5 seconds remaining to give Decatur's girls a come-from-behind 47-46 victory over Woodward at the Decatur High Arena Thursday afternoon.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," said a smiling Dillard moments after the game ended.
For Decatur, the nail biter was historic on at least three fronts: It puts the Lady Bulldogs into Friday's 7 p.m. championship, plus giving them at least a second seed and a home-court game next week in the first round of the state playoffs.
It's been decades since any of those occurred, so it only makes sense it wouldn't come easy. Decatur fell behind 17-2 as Woodward riddled the Bulldogs 2-3 zone like it was target practice.
"I didn't think our zone was that bad," said Decatur coach Bill Roberts, "but they were finding all the right spaces. I had no choice but to switch to man to man [early in the second quarter]."
Decatur instantly became more aggressive and virtually halted Woodward's attack in clawing its way to within 26-16 at halftime. Even though she'd missed eight of her 10 first-half shots, Dillard said she wasn't worried.
"I knew we'd come back," she said. "There was never any doubt in my mind."
It didn't come all at once. When Woodward's Ashari Hankerson hit a 17-footer with 25 seconds left in the third quarter, Woodward still led 39-30. But on Decatur's next possession junior Kori Anderson hit a left perimeter three at the buzzer cutting it to 39-33.
It was the first of three consecutive three pointers for Anderson. She hit another with 6 minutes left in the game, and then at 5:28, off verbal instructions from Roberts on the bench, Kris Munson screened Woodward post Madison McGrath, freeing Anderson for yet another three, giving Decatur its first lead at 39-38.
After this neither team would have more than a one-possession lead. When Dillard hit two free throws at 1:26, Decatur led 46-44. After a missed Woodward free throw Dillard rebounded, drove the length, and wheeling into the paint threw up an off-balanced one-hand runner that missed badly. She compounded matters by fouling Woodward sharpshooter Madison Richardson who hit both free throws tying matters at 46 with 53.2 seconds left.
"I can normally hit that shot," Dillard said. "But looking back, I should've backed out and managed the clock better."
Decatur then held the ball for nearly 50 seconds before Dillard angled left and was mauled on her jumper at 1.5. Woodward called a timeout, before Dillard hit her first shot, then Woodward called another timeout. Dillard missed the second shot, but Woodward's Alexandria Williams had time only for a 70 foot desperation that didn't come close.
Decatur shot 16 of 51 from the field for 31 percent, 3 of 12 in three pointers for 25 percent and 12 of 18 from the line for 67 percent. Kori Anderson had 11 points and Jayla Morrow had seven points and seven rebounds before leaving with a bruised shoulder.
Decatur plays the winner of Thursday night's St. Pius X.-Blessed Trinity game.