OSGOOD — The South Decatur girls basketball team knew it would be facing a tough challenge in its sectional semifinal game against Rising Sun on Saturday after beating the Shiners by only two points the second game of the season.
The Cougars were up to the challenge. Thanks to a strong rebounding effort, they posted a 42-37 win to advance to Monday’s championship game against Class A No. 8 and host Jac-Cen-Del.
“We knew this game could even be tougher,” South Decatur coach Jessi McConnell said. “I told the girls we needed to rebound today and not give them multiple shots. That was key for us.”
Rebounding proved to be a deciding factor. The Cougars (11-9) were able to hold the Shiners (7-11) to one shot a possession throughout most of the fourth quarter, enabling them to secure the victory. Rising Sun scored only nine points in the final period.
“We did a good job outrebounding them, especially late in the game,” said senior Julia Miller, who led all scorers with 13 points. “Megan (Niese) hit some big foul shots to help us hang on.”
“I knew I needed to hit my free throws,” said Niese, who finished with eight points. “I told myself that’s what we practice for, and I had to relax. It’s four of the biggest free throws I’ve ever made.”
Niese’s first pair of free throws came with 1:32 remaining. The South Decatur defense, especially the inside play of senior Ashley Johannigman, took the pressure off the struggling offense and kept Rising Sun from taking the lead.
“Ashley wants to be in those situations,” McConnell said. “She wants the pressure and responsibility of helping our team find a way to win.”
Johannigman and her teammates have found ways to win throughout the season. The Cougars’ 11 wins are already an improvement from their six victories last year, a season that ended with a first-round sectional loss.
The victory against
Rising Sun gives South Decatur a chance for its first sectional title since 2008. The Cougars will have to overcome a tough challenge against Jac-Cen-Del (16-3).
“We have to be able to keep up with them because they’re a very quick team,” McConnell said. “We have to do the things we’re best at and play our game. We can’t let them draw us out of our game plan and control us. We have to take charge.”