Decatur High's Lady Bulldogs displayed a balanced, unselfish attack in dispatching Towers 51-11 in Tuesday's first round of the Region 6-AAA tournament at the Decatur High Arena. For Decatur the victory clinches a third consecutive state tournament berth.
The Bulldogs next play Thursday at 4 p.m. against the winner of Woodward vs. McNair (Wednesday, 4 p.m.). The winner of that one advances to Friday's regional championship and earns home-court advantage in the first round of next week's state tournament.
For Decatur's girls team, now 20-6, it's the third consecutive 20-win season and fourth straight winning season after decades of one losing year after year. Seniors Alana Johnson and Jasmine Andrews are the only current players who've played in each of those four seasons that've seen the Lady Bulldogs go 78-31.
"Most of the the girls on this team don't know what it was like," Johnson said after the game. "I had cousins who played for Decatur before I came along, and my mother and aunt went here. Growing up we had nothing but losing teams. There's a lot of people in my family who've been waiting a long time for what I think this team's capable of."
Although Decatur handled Towers with aplomb in both regular-season games, the Lady Bulldogs took it up a notch Tuesday with precision passing and unrelenting defense, a marked improvement over most of the season.
Particularly effective on its high-low passing, and inside-out looks, Decatur had 12 team assists and could've had had 8 to 10 more if a number of layups or interior shots hadn't been missed.
The Bulldogs wound up shooting only 32 percent on 23 of 72 from the field, definitely an area that still needs improving.
Decatur didn't get a good game out of its star, Villanova-bound Jordan Dillard, who had only 10 points (she averages 18.5) on 4 of 17 shooting. But junior Kori Anderson had eight points, sophomore Jahmee Reeves had eight points and five steals in one of her better games of the year, while freshmen Jayla Morrow and Kierra Edge had eight and six points respectively.
"In previous years we've always relied on one superstar, or a dynamic duo," Johnson said. "Now we're relying on the whole team, and not just upper classmen either, but freshmen and sophomores. This is truly a team. We've bonded more and don't have the cliques of past years."
That was particularly apparent on defense where Roberts blended three zones (2-3, 3-2 and 1-2-2) with a man-to-man and occasionally deployed a 2-2-1 full-court press. Towers scored only two points the entire second half and didn't have a field goal the final 17:30.
Roberts was pleased with his press, but isn't sure how much he'll use it down the road. Decatur's gotten beat in the first round of the state playoffs each of the last two years, and the coach said Tuesday that "getting over that [first round] hump" has been a primary focus all season.
"First of all, getting that home court advantage is huge," said Roberts, who's now won 20 or more games the last eight years (the first five at Salem High). "That makes Thursday's game real important. Second, you've got to play great half court defense. Once you start playing these better teams, they know how to execute against a press, so that means you have to get it done in the half court."
Decatur figures to play third-seeded Woodward in Thursday's semifinal, a team it beat 55-40 on December 4 and 41-27 last month.
"Believe me I'm not sleeping," Johnson said. "You know the old saying, it's hard to beat a good team three times, and I believe it. Plus, we beat [Greater Atlanta Christian] twice last year, then they came in here and beat us [during the regional tournament] when it counted. Tomorrow at practice I'm going to remind my teammates of that."
The tournament at a glance.
- Game 1 Girls Decatur-51 Towers-11
- Game 2 Boys Cedar Grove- 60 Towers-45
- Game 3 Girls St. Pius X-60 Cross Keys-3
- Game 4 Boys Woodward- 71 Cross Keys-9
- Game 5, 4 p.m.: Girls-Woodward (third seed) vs. McNair (sixth)
- Game 6, 5:30 p.m.: Boys-St. Pius X (third) vs. McNair (sixth)
- Game 7, 7 p.m.: Girls-Blessed Trinity (fourth) vs. Cedar Grove (sixth)
- Game 8, 8:30 p.m.: Boys-Blessed Trinity (fourth) vs. Decatur (fifth)