The Decatur High boys fought off a pressing Druid Hills Monday night to win 50-47 in the Bulldogs' opening game in the Thanksgiving Classic basketball tournament at the DHS gym.
The Decatur girls had a much easier time, squashing Druid Hills 70-20.
Now 2-0, Decatur plays AAA Woodward Academy Wednesday night. Woodward is 3-0 this season after going 22-8 and earning a Sweet Sixteen berth last year. Tipoff for the boys is 8:30 p.m., while the Decatur-Woodward girls game is 7 p.m.
In the boys game on Monday night, Decatur committed 23 turnovers, many against Druid Hills' 1-2-2 full-court press.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen a press,” Decatur coach Charlie Copp said. “Our guys have to learn to look down court, like Xeric did on the last play, instead of looking backwards. That’ll come with time.”
He was talking about guard Xeric Kirk, who had missed all five shots he’d taken Monday night, including three three-pointers.
But with the Bulldogs leading Druid Hills by one with seconds evaporating, Kirk spotted Brett Riley wide open at midcourt, pump-faked and lofted a pass out of a choking trap. Riley made an easy left-hand lay-up with two seconds left, preserving Decatur’s lead.
Fifteen seconds into the fourth quarter Druid Hills led by the six, the biggest lead either team held up to this point. But the Bulldogs sliced it to three, and with 4:24 left sophomore Davante Meadows calmly hit a three from the left corner to tie the game at 42.
Thirty seconds later Meadows, who finished with nine points and six rebounds, hit two free throws giving Decatur the lead for good, 44-42.
The night’s single most athletic moment was provided by senior point Kurt Robinson when he hit a Kobe Bryant-like step-back 12-footer with 2:46 left. He was fouled and subsequently converted the free throw making it 47-42.
Robinson finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but he also had 11 turnovers, most on forced passes.
“He was sluggish tonight,” Copp said, “and this was a game where he needed more energy. But when you talk about Kurt it’s a lot like talking about church where 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Right now, for us, Kurt’s doing about 80 percent of the work.”
In the end Decatur’s depth and persistent industry won this one, wearing down Druid Hills which could manage only six points in the final 7:45.
Nevertheless, Druid Hills had one huge chance late.
With 37.4 seconds left, Decatur’s Jacob Fortenberry fouled John Yallery, promptly slapped the floor with both hands and was whistled for a technical. Suddenly, trailing by only four, the visitors had four free throws plus possession.
But Yallery missed both of his and Willie Zachery made only 1 of 2. Druid Hills wasted its possession when Riley drew his fourth charge of the night at 28.5.
Still, it wasn’t over. Druid Hills recovered possession on a five-second call, Morriss Biglow was fouled and converted both free throws and now Decatur led only 48-47 with 13.3 seconds left.
Moments later Kirk sealed the deal by delivering his pass to Riley.
The Bulldogs shot 19 of 45 from the field for 42 percent and 8 of 12 from the line for 67 percent.
Decatur scoring: Kurt Robinson-15; Davonte Meadows-9; Brett Riley-9; Desmond Tuft-7; Cordele Jackson-4; Xeric Kirk-3; Jacob Fortenberry-3