Greensburg Daily News
The South Decatur boys basketball team nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the season Thursday before losing to visiting and unbeaten Waldon 58-55.
Waldron, the second-ranked team in the Associated Press 1A poll, faced a Cougar squad ready to knock the Mohawks off their perch. The Cougars enjoyed a lead as big as six points in the first half and sustained a lead until the final minute of the back-and-forth game.
Head coach Tom Black saw his squad emerge from warm-ups and onto the court with as much intensity as he’s seen all season.
“We can walk out with confidence that we played them with a chance to win,” said Black. “Certainly, our kids need to hold their heads up.”
Junior Taylor Kopplin scored to cut an early 4-0 Waldron lead in half, and senior Byron Balser tied the game at 5-all on a 3-pointer two minutes into the game. The lead changed three times in the first quarter, with the Mohawks ending the period with a 9-2 run to lead 15-11.
South, though, hit a trio of 3-pointers in a two-minute span early in the second quarter. Kopplin’s trey from the corner pulled South to within two at 16-14, and senior Cameron Agnew later hit one to push South ahead 19-18. Agnew then expanded it to 21-18, and Balser made it 24-19 with a long-distance shot.
The Cougars enjoyed a six-point lead, 28-22, thanks to a Kopplin jumper just inside the arc, then a Balser free throw.
Waldron, though, made some treys of their own. Junior Kyle Garner made it 28-25 at the 3-minute mark, and Waldron knotted it at 28-all with 1:55 left to end the first-half scoring.
The final minutes of the first half offered a glimpse of the second-half excitement. The lead changed eight times in eight minutes as South compiled an 18-14 advantage in the third quarter. South’s longest duration of time with a lead was about three minutes during a 6-2 run. Baskets by Balser, Agnew and Kopplin opened up a 34-31 lead. Waldron scored the next four points until a triple by junior Andrew Wullenweber put South back on top 37-36 at the 4:40 mark. Balser made a 3-point play for South’s third lead, then closed out the quarter with three straight scores. Balser’s third came off his own steal and made it 46-42 with 32 seconds left.
South again enjoyed a two-possession lead when Agnew’s second 3-ball made it 49-45 with 6:30 to go.
Waldron, though, responded with a 3-point play and another score to go back up front 50-49 with 5:46 left. A South timeout seemed to refocus Tom Black’s team because Balser’s score put South back up front and consecutive steals by Balser and Wullenweber tested Waldron’s psyche.
South went up 53-50 with 4:16 left on another Balser deuce.
Unfortunately for South, though, its last lead was with 1:20 left when Agnew’s pair of free throws gave the hosts a 55-54 lead. Waldron shot 4-for-4 from the foul line for the final four-point margin.
South had one last possession and worked the ball past midcourt, but Waldron ended the game on a steal.
South excelled beyond the arc with seven treys, compared to Waldron’s two. Black noted, though, that defense and rebounding were the keys to the game.
“We did a decent job with their perimeter players,” he said, “but their bigs hurt us. I don’t think we matched up with their physicality. They got a lot of second-chance points. Over the course of the game, losing the battle of the boards will cost you an opportunity to win the game.”
Balser scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Agnew followed with 16 points and Kopplin added 10. South’s top three scorers each hit two triples. Wullenweber added his own triple and scored five points off the bench to round out the scoring.
Black credited South’s bench – including seniors Taylor Campos and Ben Tichenor, and junior Chris Johannigman – with preserving the starters’ intensity.
“We had several players give us some short minutes and some long minutes that we needed, and we never lost ground when we had those kids in the game,” said Black. “You have to step up with the same kind of intensity, and I think we did in a good atmosphere against a good team.”
South’s varsity is now 11-5 overall and 2-4 in the Mid-Hoosier Conference, while Waldron is 18-0 and 7-0 in the MHC.
Senior Night is next for South when it hosts MHC rival Edinburgh (11-5 overall, 3-2 MHC) next Friday. The Cougars will honor Agnew, Balser, Campos, Jordan Hatton, Josh Miller and Tichenor.
“Our kids will be fired up,” said Black. “They’re good seniors and good kids. (Thursday’s) game is the kind of game I hope they will play.”
Black said although it’s clear South won’t win the conference at this point, it has a lot to plan ahead for.
“They can still look ahead and stay focused on their goals, and that is winning the sectional and traveling to Martinsville for the Regional,” he said.
South JV team falls by one
The South junior varsity team fell by one point to Waldron, 44-43, despite a second-half surge. The Mohawks led 17-6 after the first quarter and 28-17 at the half. South outscored Waldron 11-9 in the third quarter to make it 37-28, then 15-7 in the fourth, but the 26-16 second-half edge was not enough.
Nick Schwering scored 13 points to lead South. Sam Studler scored eight, while Brayden Helms and Randall Canady each scored six. Jordan Ortman scored five, Seth Niese added three and David Mize chipped in two.
JV 3-pointers (6): Schwering 2, Helms 2, Ortman 1, Niese 1.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.