Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about Friday’s Decatur-Westminster boys game is that the Bulldogs trailed by only four with 30 seconds left.
In the end Decatur lost 37-30 in the second round of Westminster’s Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament, but not without a heartening fourth-quarter comeback that saw the Bulldogs use up-tempo, full-court pressure to outscore the home team 15-8.
But Decatur’s pulse barely fluttered in the first half. Indeed, Decatur Coach Charlie Copp could barely offer an explanation for what was likely the school’s worst half in decades.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” he said. “I thought we found openings, we got good shots. The problem was we didn’t make any of them.”
He isn’t far off: the Bulldogs scored all of one point in the last 15:20 of the first half. After making their first shot of the game, they missed their next 19 in shooting 5 percent from the field prior to intermission.
After doing an excellent job against Johns Creek’s zone defense one night earlier, Decatur saw an ever-tightening 2-3 from Westminster nearly all night. But despite adequate ball movement and, as Copp noted, a number of good looks, the ball simply wouldn’t fall.
The loss of point guard Kendall Ford, who’s been this team leading scorer and sparkplug in the four previous games, didn’t help. Ford sprained his ankle Thursday, missed all of Friday’s game, and is doubtful for Saturday.
Without Ford’s outside shooting and general all-around poise, Decatur seemed adrift almost all night, still trailing 30-15 inside the last 4½ minutes.
But then the Bulldogs, using full-court and three-quarters court pressure, and using a lineup including spirited though seldom-used players Sam Berg and Charlie Shew, finally thawed out and nearly made an improbable comeback.
Leading scorer Murad Dillard made his first shot of the night with four minutes left, then he made a three pointer, followed by a three from Davontae Carter, then a steal and a layup from Cordele Jackson and Decatur was down seven (32-25) with 1:54 left.
Another three from Dillard and it was 32-28 with 55 seconds left, and it was still only a four-point deficit (34-30) with 25 seconds to go.
But there simply wasn’t enough time left. Decatur fell to 7-4.
When asked later why didn’t turn up the juice with a press earlier in the game Copp replied, “You have to make shots to press, and we didn’t make anything. Besides our defense did a good job. We held them to 12 field goals and 37 points and that usually wins games.
“I don’t know to explain [the poor shooting],” he said. “All I can tell you is that we go home, go to sleep, wake up, eat breakfast and get ready to play another game tomorrow.”
Decatur plays the consolation game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against Bishop McGuinness Catholic out of Kernersville, North Carolina.
On Friday the Bulldogs wound up shooting 12 of 54 from the field for 22 percent and 3 of 9 (33 percent) from the foul line. Murad Dillard led the team with nine points, all of those in the last four minutes, while Davante Meadows, who sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble, had seven points and eight rebounds.