Greensburg Daily News
The South Decatur boys basketball team made it a trifecta of Decatur County boys basketball teams advancing to tonight’s sectional championship games.
The Cougars, hosting the South Decatur Sectional 60 semifinal, led by double digits in the first half and overcame several Shawe Memorial runs to clinch a 54-53 win in overtime.
Big plays throughout the game helped South advance. Senior Byron Balser hit a trio of free throws after getting fouled shooting, which tied it at 44 to force the extra session. Balser made a 3-pointer to begin overtime and senior Cameron Agnew hit a layup with less than five seconds left to clinch the win. Agnew actually began the thriller with five points in the first quarter, and finished it with seven in the extra session.
The Cougars sprinted out to a 19-6 lead after the first eight minutes and appeared to have complete control of the game.
The Hilltoppers, though, were thinking otherwise. Shawe (9-13) went on a 16-6 run that spanned the second quarter, and closed the gap to just three at 25-22 by halftime.
As quickly as the Hilltoppers stormed back into the game, South surged forward to create daylight between the teams. Junior Taylor Kopplin continued his season-long prolific shooting from the perimeter, hitting another 3-pointer to make it 28-22. Balser later added his own three with a 3-point play, and South led 31-22 just 60 seconds into the second half. The lead fluctuated between five and eight points. South senior Josh Miller kept Shawe at bay, sandwiching a Shawe triple with a pair of free throws and a power layup that made it 35-28 with 3:50 left in the third.
Foul trouble, though, plagued the Cougars. The teams tied the score four times in the final eight-plus minutes of regulation. The Hilltoppers compiled a 7-0 run to tie the game at 35-all, then a basket gave them a 37-35 lead with 7:13 left. Two foul shots by senior Cameron Agnew and a Balser triple were not enough to finish off the team in green.
Things began to appear dire for the Cougars when they fell behind 42-38 with 4:41 left. Leading by three at 44-41, Shawe committed an over-and-back violation with 1:41 to go. A foul on senior Joey Mingione sent Balser to the line with 1:28 left. After missing the free throws, Balser was later able to redeem himself in a big way. Senior Jordan Hatton rebounded the second miss, giving South a new life with 1:24 left. Balser then drew a foul attempting a 3-pointer, sending him to the line. He made all three at the stripe to tie it at 44-all, then came up with a key defensive rebound before the first 32 minutes expired.
After scoring the last three points of regulation, Balser knocked in the first three points of overtime with a 3-ball from the wing. Shawe hit its own trey at the 2:34 mark, but Agnew answered with a layup to tie it at 47-all at the 2:13 mark.
Shawe made up for a travel violation by going ahead 51-49 on a pair of foul shots as the clock read 51.9.
The lead, however, changed a third time. Agnew scored and drew a foul, enabling himself to convert another basket-and-one. The play put South ahead 52-51 with 26.2 seconds remaining, and the Cougar faithful envisioned a championship berth. Once again, just as it had more than two quarters ago, Shawe threatened to extinguish those hopes. South found itself trailing again, 53-52, with less than 10 seconds left.
Sure enough, though, another play from one of South’s standout seniors made the difference. Agnew’s score that rolled off his fingertips lifted his team with 3.4 seconds left, 54-53.
The Hilltoppers’ final shot missed its mark and the Cougars were finally able to celebrate.
Agnew led all scorers with 16 points, including seven in overtime. He shot 3-for-3 from the stripe. Balser followed with 15 (3-for-5 from the line). Kopplin hit four triples for 13 points. Josh Miller ended with nine points, and junior Chris Johannigman chipped in one.
South shot 11-for-20 (55 percent) from the line, while Shawe made 9-of-15 (60 percent).
Head coach Tom Black’s Cougars will meet Jac-Cen-Del (7-15) Saturday night for the Sectional crown at 7:30 p.m. The Eagles, designated as the visiting team, needed overtime to defeat Rising Sun (2-19) 54-50 in the second semifinal game.
South improves to 15-6 on the season, clinching the most wins for the program in 17 years (1995-1996 season). South also gets a shot to win its first sectional title since 2008.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.