WESTPORT — South Decatur has played bigger schools and high-quality competition all season. The intended goal was the make the Cougars tougher for this time of the year, with the conclusion of conference games and in postseason play.
While their record isn’t as sparkling as it was last year when they won over 20 games in the regular season, the Cougars got their first taste of satisfaction Friday night.
In a battle for the outright Mid-Hoosier Conference title, South Decatur used its experience of playing good teams and knocked off Edinburgh 64-55.
The Cougars improved to 12-7 overall and finished 6-0 in the MHC. They celebrated with hugs and handshakes after the horn sounded.
“It feels pretty good,” senior Tyler Sporleder said. “I feel like we were underdogs a little bit just because of our record. But playing those bigger teams definitely helped us.”
Edinburgh dropped to 16-5 overall and 5-1 in the MHC. The Lancers came in ranked No. 5 in Class 1A and had won six straight.
Going undefeated in conference play for the second straight year was a difficult feat to achieve, SD coach Kendall Wildey said.
Four of the Cougars’ six MHC victories were by single digits. They beat Morristown by one, Waldron by three and Southwestern (Shelby) by seven.
“Edinburgh’s got a great team; Morristown’s got a great team,” Wildey said. “Your Southwestern’s and Waldron about beat us a week ago. It’s tough to go through it and be able to get wins like that.”
Field goal shooting was a major factor against Edinburgh. South shot nearly 50 percent from the field (25-for-52), while Edinburgh was just 38 percent (18-for-47).
“It was just a great team effort,” Wildey said. “Edinburgh is an awesome ball club. We just thought if we could keep pressure on for 32 minutes that we might be able to wear them down at the end. I don’t know if we wore them down as much as we might have frustrated them, because they weren’t able to run what they wanted to run.”
Tied 29-29 at halftime, the Cougars took a two-point lead going in the fourth quarter. They stretched the lead early in the quarter with suffocating defense. They also made shots and got to the free-throw line.
The Cougars relied on balanced scoring, putting four players in double figures.
Lane Lauderbaugh led the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The senior was held well below his season average of nearly 27, but he was unselfish made a team-high five assists.
Jacob Scruggs notched 16 points and hit a 3-pointer with just over two minutes to go that was essentially the final dagger. The freshman made six steals and hounded Edinburgh’s point guards all night.
“I thought Jacob’s defense was phenomenal,” Wildey said. “He put so much pressure on the point and the ball all night long.”
Sporleder played with intensity from the opening tip. The senior tallied 14 points and three assists.
“Everybody moved the ball as good as we have in a while,” Sporleder said. “Everybody was getting open looks.”
Chase Boswell came out strong in the first half and netted 10 points.
Evan Wullenweber knocked down a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the second half and finished with six points and five rebounds.
Edinburgh sophomore Caleb Deway led three Lancers in double figures with 17 points.
This was South’s third game without Hunter Johnson. The Cougars struggled to beat Waldron and lost to a very good Covenant Christian team previously.
Even though they’ve had only a couple of walk-throughs in recent weeks because of practices getting canceled due to weather, they managed to step up their play against Edinburgh.
“It feels great,” Wullenweber said. “Obviously, without Hunter, it was a huge blow. That’s good to get out there and get a big win, especially over Edinburgh with the way they’ve been playing.”
Johnson suffered a fracture in his right wrist that required a hard cast for at least two weeks. He had a follow-up doctor’s appointment Monday, and the Cougars hope he’ll be able to return very soon.
“We’re praying he gets good news and might be able to get back in,” Wildey said. “He might not be 100 percent, but we’ll still take him at whatever he can give us.”
A big second half propelled Edinburgh to a 62-51 win in the junior varsity contest. The Lancers outscored the Cougars 32-19 after halftime.
Drew Diekhoff and Luke Burton led the way for South, scoring 12 apiece. Brady Lane added 11, Jaylynn McMurray chipped in nine, Avery Seegers had five and Cameron Henderson scored two.
The Cougars have two games on tap this week to close out the regular season: Tuesday against Oldenburg Academy (6-9) and Friday at Knightstown (0-17).
Sunday’s sectional draw revealed the Cougars will get an opening-round bye. The defending champs will await the winner of North Decatur and South Ripley.
“These next two weeks, we’re gonna have to bring it every practice as hard as we can and get ready for our sectional,” Sporleder said.