For The Tribune
The Trinity Lutheran girls basketball team scored the first 14 points of the third quarter of Saturday afternoon’s basketball game at South Decatur to hold an early 44-22 lead.
Trinity then had to withstand a late charge by the host South Decatur Cougars before coming home with a 71-58 win.
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A basket by Piper Acton put Trinity on top 44-22 midway through the third period.
Trinity held a 52-30 lead going into the fourth period before Decatur stormed back and cut the visitors’ lead to 64-58 on a basket by Megan Niese with 45 seconds remaining.
Maddie Roark came right back with a layup on Trinity’s next possession, and Trinity added to its lead at the free-throw line in the closing seconds.
“All we talked about in the locker room at half-time was being mental tough, physical tough and road tough, and that’s going to be the key to the rest of our season because we’ve got to go on the road in the sectional,” Trinity coach Mike Lang said.
“I thought at the start of the third quarter we came out with all three of those characteristics, and in the fourth quarter we softened up a little bit when we got a big lead, and South Decatur exposed us, to their credit.
“They made it a ballgame there at the end. We went small there at the end to kind of spread it out and seal the deal.”
Roark had a hot hand for Trinity in the third period when she scored five baskets, and added a free throw for 11 points, plus Acton and Kaitlyn Wright made 3-point shots in the quarter.
Trinity held a 30-22 lead at the half, but Lang said he felt it should have been more than an eight-point cushion.
“We were sloppy in the first half,” he said as his team had 11 turnovers during that time. “We come in and we didn’t have mental toughness in the first half.”
Roark made three 3-pointers in the first period and two 3s in the second. She finished with seven 2-pointers, 5 3-pointers, and 7-for-13 at the free-throw line for 36 points to break her school record after scoring 35 points Thursday night at New Washington.
The officials were busy blowing their whistles throughout as there were 55 fouls called, 32 on Decatur and 23 on Trinity. A total of seven players fouled out, including four of the Decatur starters, plus two Trinity girls.
Trinity made 23 of 45 free throws, while Decatur made 21 of 31.
Lang said, “We can talk as much as we want as coaches and give 32 minutes, but it’s tough for kids to go out there for 32 minutes, especially when they see a scoreboard up 22, and we know how quick when momentum changes, the game can change really quick and the momentum switched on us.
“In some ways I’m glad it happened. It’s a practice-building situation for us, it’s character building situation, and the kids realize that yes, they did make a run, but having a young team on the floor like we did, they pulled it out and expanded it back to a double-digit lead.”
Brooke Helms topped Decatur (3-12) with 23 points, and Stacy Fox added 18.
Sidney Stuckwisch was the top rebounder for Trinity with 11.
Trinity Lutheran (8-9) will travel to Shawe Memorial on Tuesday.