LEON — Central Decatur escaped with a 73-68 win in a wild, back-and-forth contest here on Dec. 3 against Clarke in a game that saw nine lead changes.
But, even in the loss, a star emerged for Clarke.
Senior Colin Morris went off for 41 points on 16-of-33 shooting from the floor to ignite the Indians after Clarke fell behind 20-10 early.
Morris stepped up and hit big shot after big shot to bring the Indians back into the game.
"I knew Colin would step up," Clarke head coach James Larson said. "If you would have seen all the effort and hard work he put in over the summer, you'd know what to expect this year. I wasn't surprised.
"Colin really put it on his shoulders this year to take over the team, because with the loss of (Dylan) Diveney, we needed that leader to step up," Larson said. "He's doing it vocally and on the floor. He did a lot of attacking. He's a tough guy to guard. He's quick, he's strong. He can take it to the hoop, but he can shoot it, too."
Central Decatur head coach Zach Clark said before the game he was worried about Morris hitting shots. Clark's fear was realized, but his team hit enough clutch shots down the stretch to hold on for the win.
"For us to escape with a guy getting 41 is lucky," he said. "He was a good player last year — now he's a great player. He made every big shot for them, and we were able to just make a couple more shots at the end. A performance like that, 41 is the most that's ever been scored against me in 11 years of coaching. You can only say great things about that kid. He's a competitor and he's a great sport. I hope he has a great season."
Many of the starters in the game found themselves in foul trouble, which tested the depth of each team's bench.
Both teams received solid contributions from the bench.
Larson said he was particularly proud of 6-6 freshman Grant Wishon's play off the bench. Wishon finished with just two rebounds, but made his presence known on defense by altering shots. He recorded two blocked shots.
"He stepped up big," Larson said. "He gave us some big minutes, because I knew our post players were going to foul out. He stepped up, did his job. He didn't score any points, but he was a presence down low. That was nice to have."
After slow starts to the game, Clark saw two of his starters get into a rhythm in the second half, helping the Cardinals pull out the victory.
Dalton Rhum finished with a team-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, making two big baskets down the final stretch. Noah Simon also provided a spark in the second half, scoring 16 points for the game with seven boards. Peyton Pedersen netted 16 points for the Cardinals.
Jared Jamison added 11 points for Clarke, and also dished out six assists. Carlos Tamayo and freshman Troy Morgan each scored seven points for the Indians.
Clarke fell to 0-2 for the season and 0-1 in the South Central Conference with an 83-69 home loss to Chariton on Monday.
Morris once again led the Indians, this time scoring 32 points on 12-of-28 shooting to go with seven rebounds. Jamison added 11 points, while Matt Blanchard scored nine points with four rebounds. Brin Evins grabbed eight rebounds.
Tamayo scored nine points with four assists, while Morgan pitched in six points.
Clarke hosts Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont on Friday.