It was as heartbreaking as any game could turn out to be.
Friday night’s outcome in the South Decatur Sectional 60 Semifinal was not the result that the South Decatur boys basketball team had expected.
The Cougars, wearing their dark jerseys as the designated visiting team, emerged from the pregame locker room in front of a large South crowd with plans to sweep the Shiners on the season.
The second half had a championship feel to it, a feeling that South was going to pull off a thrilling comeback after trailing by double digits.
However, a trio of Rising Sun Shiners kept the Cougars tamed in a 69-65 South loss in the third game of the tournament.
South senior Taylor Kopplin needed to step up to give his team a chance, and the two-year starter delivered. Kopplin scored 26 points (four off his career high) to lead six other scorers into the extra session. The school’s all-time 3-point shooter with 111 triples, Kopplin converted a 3-point play to tie the game at 47-all early in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 18-4 in the first quarter, the Cougars (4-17) chiseled away at a 20-6 deficit at the end of the first eight minutes. All five South starters scored in the second quarter, with senior Chris Johannigman’s seven points leading the way. Junior Sam Studler scored five points to help the designated visiting team trim the Shiners’ advantage to four points.
Rising Sun led 34-27 at the break.
The Cougars opened the third quarter with a 13-6 run, fueled by a score from senior Devin Taylor and six points from Studler. After Rising Sun failed to capitalize off a steal, Kopplin sank his fourth trey of the night. South suddenly found itself down just two points with 3:50 left in the third. Studler struck again, tying the game at 40-all, a trend that continued through the remainder of regulation. The teams once again exchanged baskets. Devin Taylor forced another tie with a layup, making it 44-all with 33 seconds left.
The Shiners, however, went up 47-44 with a 3-point play to end the third.
Kopplin opened the fourth quarter with a 3-point play to tie it at 47, and Taylor gave South its first lead of the game with a score in the paint. The Shiners, though, had an answer to reclaim the lead.
Facing deficits in the final minutes of the fourth, South senior Andrew Wullenweber and Taylor came up with the plays to keep their team in it.
Another factor that allowed South to force overtime was Rising Sun’s futility at the foul line, as the Shiners shot 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
Once again, Studler made a play that equalized the contest. His tip-in with 1:49 left in the fourth tied it at 58-all.
South came up with a defensive rebound in the closing seconds, but Rising Sun regained possession on a jump ball that led to the end of regulation.
The final tie of the game took place with 3:24 left. A Kopplin free throw made it 59-all. South turned it over on its next possession, but recovered when Kopplin sank yet another triple with 2:13 left. It signaled the Cougars’ final lead of the game.
Sporleder responded with a basket, and Rising Sun scored again to go back up for good.
The Shiners overcame their failure at the charity stripe, shooting 7-for-8 in overtime, and outscored South 11-7 in the extra session.
Studler followed Kopplin with 14 points, a career high, including nine in the second half. Johannigman followed with eight, while Devin Taylor scored seven. Adding four apiece were Wullenweber and junior Nick Schwering. Junior Jordan Ortman chipped in two.
Oldenburg Academy defeated Jac-Cen-Del 61-56 in the championship game to advance to the Martinsville Regional this Saturday. The Twisters will play Clay City (18-6) at noon.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.
It was as heartbreaking as any game could turn out to be.
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