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Decatur High boys basketball team repeats as region champ

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Decatur High boys basketball team repeats as region champ

The Basketball team poses with its region trophy after a 64-61 win over Tucker at Tucker High School. Photo by Keson Graham (@kesonthedhspics on Instagram)

By David McFarland, contributor

Decatur, GA — Decatur High School’s Varsity Boys Basketball team has been crowned region champions for a second straight year. The Bulldogs won a wild region tournament final on the road against Tucker High 64-61 to claim the throne on Friday night, and now move on to state as a No. 1 seed. 

“The key to success is coming together as a team,” according to senior Kaleb Lanier. “I would give credit to Mr. (David) Harbin (Decatur’s Athletics Director) for this, he challenged us to bond and really try to connect with each other. Pushing each other, encouraging each other and since then we have been clicking on all cylinders.” 

Fellow senior Alden Daniels highlighted Decatur’s focus on constant improvement as the key to its success. “We approach each day with the attitude that we can always get better.”

Lanier said Decatur’s Jan. 15 matchup against GAC proved to be a turning point.

“We took a bad loss and it just took us all coming together and putting that loss past us. As a team, we knew we had all the potential in the world. After the game, we had a team dinner. We all just came together and all brought in,” he said.

Decatur had been a good team even before that defeat, but the Bulldogs kicked into a new gear after its reality check at the hands of GAC, racking up one win after another and claiming victory in seven of its last eight games. 

The Bulldogs ended its regular season with almost 100 more points scored than conceded (1,421 to 1,329) throughout the campaign and a dominant 19W-6L overall record, even better than its 18-10 tally in its 2023 region-winning year. Decatur also went 8-2 in its region before the tournament, with one of those losses coming to none other than Tucker. The Bulldogs split the regular season series with Tucker, winning 58-57 and losing 55-49. It was a highly contested matchup even before the region final, which took things to another level entirely.  

Decatur edged into the lead out of the gates, but by halftime, it was all level. Following the break a short burst from Tucker gave it a lead Decatur spent the third quarter chipping away at, eventually drawing level just before the fourth quarter – only to almost immediately go down again. Lanier described the final minutes of action.

“We found ourselves down 6 again with around 6:00 remaining,” he said. “A timeout was called by Coach Faulkner, and he just told us we got this and there’s no need to worry. We will be just fine.”

That proved to be just the case, as Decatur went on a run to tie the game out of the timeout, setting up a hectic finish with both teams tallying points left and right until the very end. Decatur had a 61-59 lead with a minute left, only for Tucker to tie the game with 40 seconds to go. The next possession, however, proved decisive. Senior and All-Region player Alden Daniels hit a 3-point shot from the corner with only 15 seconds on the clock, the defense subsequently came up big with a stop on Tucker, and just like that Decatur was region champs. The Bulldogs “just never gave up” in the words of Daniels.

“It was a really great feeling winning that game,” Lanier said. “Going back to back was really a good feeling, really tough and competitive game that came down to the final possession.” 

The Bulldogs are now preparing for its State Round One matchup against Greenbrier at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the DHS Gym, where it boasts a 9-3 record and will have home-field advantage until the semifinals. Even more important than where Decatur plays, however, is how it plays, and State couldn’t come at a better time – the Bulldogs are on a five-game winning streak and playing their best basketball of the season. 

Lanier makes it clear that the region trophy was just the beginning. “Our goal has been the same since day 1,” he said. “We want to compete for a state championship and win it. We believe as a team we are capable of winning the tournament and hope to make a very deep run.” 

That’s a sentiment backed by Daniels.

“We truly believe that we are capable of winning state this year so now we just have to play up to our capabilities and continue to improve,” Daniels said.

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