The South Decatur girls basketball team faced its second straight ranked opponent and third in five games. The Lady Cougars hosted fifth-ranked Eastern Hancock Tuesday, falling 58-48 despite limiting a team that scores 75 points a game.
South (2-5) enjoyed a lead on two separate occasions in the first half, but the teams knotted the score three times in the second quarter. South senior Julia Miller got her team going early and often. With the help of senior Ashley Johannigman, Miller scored eight points in the first quarter. South led 10-7 late in the opening quarter until the Royals (5-0) climbed back to go ahead 14-10.
“We started off quick, but lost momentum,” said South head coach Jessi McConnell.
South started the second quarter on fire, scoring eight straight points. Johannigman fed to senior Courtney Billingsley, then to Miller, to tie it at 14-all. Miller dropped in two more inside shots, including an athletic split of a double team through the paint, to make it 18-14 with six minutes left in the half.
The visitors, though, tied it back up and scored the next 11 points. The Royals pushed the tempo and went into the locker room ahead 31-23.
“Eastern Hancock is a fast-paced team,” said McConnell. “(Coach Jeremy Powers) goes deep in his bench and has great flow.”
Miller led South with 17 first-half points.
The Royals, though, quieted Miller in the second half. However, Johannigman picked it up with four quick points and 10 in the second half. Down the stretch, though, the Royals chipped away at the foul line as South struggled to convert. The Cougars trailed 44-32 at the third stop.
“We have to learn to finish games,” said McConnell. “Make our free throws in tough situations and play well, not only physically, but mentally.”
Just as she did in the second quarter, Miller contributed in a flurry to begin the fourth. An assist to Johannigman, then a score of her own, cut the Royal lead to eight at 44-36. Moments later, freshman Stacy Fox hit a 3-pointer to make it a seven-point game at 46-39, but that was the closest South got the rest of the way. South outscored the Royals 16-14 in the final eight minutes.