Cougars topple Eagles, advance to semifinals

GREENSBURG — South Decatur boys basketball coach Bryan Dixon said it is good to see kids smile, and he witnessed many smiles from his team after the Cougars beat Jac-Cen-Del in the first round of the South Decatur Sectional.

Dixon played all seven of his seniors Wednesday, and the Cougars’ 56-46 victory was the first sectional win for all of the players on the roster. Some of the seniors barely saw the bench for the entire game, but it was junior Matt Cornett who led the team in scoring with 33 points and 13 rebounds to help South Decatur keep the lead for the entire game.

“He played under control,” Dixon said of Cornett. “There have been some games where he has been a little bit out of control, but tonight, he just played within himself. When he does that, we are a lot better team, and he knows that.”

Cornett started the game with eight first-quarter points, but it was the Cougars’ defense that helped them end the quarter with a 12-point lead. South Decatur (12-12)  allowed the Eagles (2-22) to score only four first quarter points, but Joel Tunny found his rhythm in the second. Tunny scored 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter to help cut the Cougar lead to five points at halftime.

Dixon said his team let the game get away from it mentally, and Jac-Cen-Del played well against the press, which opened the floor for some easy buckets.

The Eagles kept coming and cut the lead to three points after a Justin Ohlmansiek 3-pointer with 3:32 left in the third quarter. Jac-Cen-Del kept it close, trailing 39-34 going into the fourth quarter, but Cornett was just too much for the Eagles to handle.

South Decatur went on a 9-2 run midway through the fourth quarter, breaking the game open with a 12-point lead. Cornett scored 14 points in the final quarter, hitting 7 of 11 free throws. Senior Oakley Billingsley hit two 3-pointers on his his way to scoring 10 points.

The Cougars will play Class A No. 6 Oldenburg Academy on Friday night, following the opener between Hauser and Waldron. South Decatur will attempt to advance to its first sectional championship game in four years.

“We played pretty well as a team,” Cornett said. “We need to carry that momentum to Friday … Oldenburg is a really talented team, so we’ll just have to move and carry momentum.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.