South Decatur dug itself out of an early hole only to come up short in overtime, falling to Rising Sun 69-65 in Friday’s semifinal action of the Class A Sectional 60 at South Decatur High School.
The Cougars trailed 20-6 after the opening quarter but patiently worked their offense and began chipping away at the Shiners to cut the deficit in half by intermission and turn the second half into a “good old-fashioned barn-burner.”
Despite a pair of crucial 3-pointers by South Decatur senior Taylor Kopplin in overtime, Rising Sun managed to answer the Cougars’ effort and seal the victory at the free-throw line. The Shiners (6-16) were a perfect 6 for 6 at the charity stripe in the final 33 seconds.
The Cougars (4-17) fell behind 63-62 with 1:22 remaining in the overtime and could never regain control of the action as turnovers haunted them at critical moments.
“Both teams played hard down the stretch,” South Decatur coach Jordan Stevens said. “I think Rising Sun executed just a little better than us at the end.”
Kopplin, who finished with 26 points, burned the Shiners’ defense with six 3-pointers as he launched bombs from deep outside the perimeter. His trey at the 2:16 mark in overtime put the Cougars on top 62-59.
But Rising Sun reeled off the next eight points, including consecutive layups by sophomore center Nick Sporleder, who finished with 21 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Sporleder also followed Kopplin’s last 3-pointer by sinking a pair of free throws to create the final winning margin.
The Shiners also got 20 points each from Austin Armstrong and Kurtis Armstrong, while Kopplin was joined in double-figure scoring by the Cougars’ Sam Studler with 14 points. Studler also had a team-leading eight rebounds.
With Rising Sun leading 34-27 at halftime, the Cougars came out in the third period with momentum still on their side and continued to trim the deficit. Kopplin’s trey with 3:45 remaining pulled his squad within two at 40-38, and then Jordan Ortman sliced through the lane for a layup moments later to knot the action and bring Stevens’ crew all the way back.
“I just can’t say enough about the way the guys played,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked all season about getting better not just from game to game or quarter to quarter, but even play to play. That paid off for us.”
The fourth period proved to be just as intense as the previous quarter, with both teams exchanging buckets throughout the first five minutes and found themselves deadlocked at 58-all with 1:33 left in regulation.
The Shiners missed a wide-open shot with under 30 seconds remaining, allowing the Cougars a chance to win the game. But they turned the ball over with six seconds left, giving Rising Sun one-last gasp as Kurtis Armstrong’s jumper at the top of the key bounced off the rim.