Decatur girls upset TJ

The Decatur girls basketball team pulled an unlikely upset Friday night with a last-second 43-41 win over Jefferson, the top team in the South Puget Sound League, South Division.

Decatur senior Cristina Null scored the winning lay-in as time expired to give the Gators the win at their home court.

“I didn’t even think about it,” Null said. “It was basic fundamentals. It just came naturally. I caught it and went to the basket.”

The score was tied at 41 with nine seconds left in the game when Jefferson’s leading scorer Michelle Morse was fouled.

Morse missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw and Decatur senior Dekeidra Brewer grabbed the rebound. Brewer threw an off-balance outlet pass to sophomore teammate Kamrica Ary-Turner, who drove past midcourt before dishing off to Null.

“I was just running down the court,” Null said. “We got a fast break out of it and it worked. The whole game I was like, ‘We got this.’ And we did it.”

Null scored 13 points — eight in the fourth quarter — and grabbed eight rebounds. Brewer had 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Jefferson’s Morse scored 16 points, but was held to just one field goal in the second half.

“Who thought we’re going to beat TJ? Nobody but Decatur,” Brewer said.

Jefferson led by as many as 13 points after starting the second quarter with a 13-3 run, forcing five Decatur turnovers.

Jefferson led 26-17 at halftime. Rather than give up, Decatur regrouped.

“We kept on going even when we got down,” Null said. “We kept pushing each other, we kept talking to each other, not letting anybody get down.”

Decatur came out with pressure defense and forced five Jefferson turnovers as it cut Jefferson’s lead to 31-27 at the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Decatur held Jefferson’s fast-pace transition offense scoreless the first four minutes of the quarter.

Decatur took the momentum — and its first lead, 35-34 — when Brewer hit two free throws with 4:33 left in the game.

But in a two minute stretch, Jefferson would score the next six points to take a 41-35 lead with less than two minutes left in the game.

Decatur junior guard Jennifer Morrow hit a 3-pointer to bring Decatur within a point at 41-40 with 26 seconds left in the game. Morrow scored 14 points in the game, including three 3-pointers. Morrow then made a steal and was fouled. She hit one of her two free throws to tie the game.

Decatur next took the lead on Null’s left-handed lay-in to end the game.

“It felt really good to show them that we can play,” Null said. “I’ve been waiting so long to beat them.”

The last time Decatur beat Jefferson was two seasons ago.

“The biggest thing for us is just believing,” said Decatur coach Colby Rogers. “We handled their pressure a lot better, at least in the second half, than we did the first time we played them.”

To prepare for Jefferson’s quick, pressing defense, Decatur spent practice bringing the ball up court against seven defenders.

“The first time we played them we were just nervous because they’re so quick and scrappy and slapping at the ball,” Brewer said. “This time we handled it. We were well prepared for this game.”

Decatur also kept Jefferson’s offense in check. The Raiders were held to 20 points below their season average of 61 points per game.

“Gayle Imran has been our best defender all year,” Rogers said. “We get great defense from her night in and night out.”

“Even our worst defenders played well tonight,” Imran said. “We all put aside our personal wants and did it for the team.”

Decatur can still make the playoffs if it wins its next two games.

“We’re still in the running for it,” Null said. “I’m confident we can win our last two games. We have to go in not just thinking we can win, we have to play like it.”

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