The Major Deacon era at Austin High got off to a strong start Thursday as the Black Bears downed Columbia 61-57 at home. Deacon’s new-look Austin team earned a win for their new head coach in his first game.

“It’s exciting, but I’m just really proud of the kids,” Deacon said. “I didn’t do anything. They scored all of the points. I didn’t guard anyone. That was all them.”

Deacon was the first Austin coach to be hired from outside of the program. He was previously an assistant coach at Thompson and a head coach at Class 6A Baker in Mobile.

Deacon’s Austin team played up-tempo with an eight-player rotation that kept players fresh. Junior Kelton Petty, senior Jackson Breedlove, senior Hunter Mitchell and senior Caleb Carter were returning players from last year’s rotation.

At first, Austin struggled to take care of the ball, and it led to a 26-23 deficit at the half.

“We were a little helter-skelter early,” Deacon said. “We turned it over too much. We struggled to rebound early.”

Austin emphasized ball security in the second half and came out crashing the backboard for rebounds, so it could push the ball in transition on offense.

The Black Bears opened up the second half with an 11-0 run with 3-pointers from senior Max Gardner, Petty and Carter. Columbia got back in the game, making it 39-38 after three.

After some back-and-forth basketball to start the fourth quarter, Austin built an eight-point lead that would give it enough separation to start the season 1-0.

“I think after the half we learned that we have to take care of the ball,” Breedlove said. “We had to settle down and rebound.”

Petty led Austin in scoring with 16 points. Breedlove added 13 points. Gardner finished with 11 points.

Austin has a quick turnaround for its next game. It plays Buckhorn on Saturday before facing Huntsville in a week.

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Austin girls 53, Columbia 16: Austin started the new season about as fast as a team can. The Black Bears led 31-4 after the first two quarters, and 51-6 midway through the third. It wasn’t until the latter part of the third quarter that Columbia reached double digits.

Many of Austin’s starters took a seat on the bench at halftime and stayed there. Freshman Jada Burks led Austin with 10 points. Junior Tashanti Watkins added nine points, and junior Hannah Cohn scored eight points. Senior Bri Hodges, who returned from a knee injury she suffered midway through last season, posted six points and six rebounds.

Austin (1-0) faces Huntsville at home next Thursday for its next game.

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Cullman boys 61, Brewer 44: Junior Mann McLemore scored 18 points as the Patriots lost their first game of the year.

Cullman led 30-22 at halftime and 44-30 after three quarters. McLemore was the only Brewer player in double figures, but senior Connor Hall added nine points.

Brewer (0-1) will play Hartselle on Tuesday for its next game.

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Cullman girls 65, Brewer 62 OT: Freshman Hope West led Brewer with 16 points, but it wasn’t enough as Brewer fell in overtime. The Patriots led 22-21 at halftime but trailed 36-30 after three quarters.

Brewer (0-1) outscored Cullman (1-0) 22-16 in the final quarter to force overtime. Cullman then scored 13 points to Brewer’s 10 in overtime.

Brewer had four players total in double figures counting West. Senior Jacie Andrews scored 12 points. Seniors Leisha Steiger and Chloe Danylo both had 11 points.

Brewer girls will face Lee-Huntsville on Saturday.

—matthew.speakman@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2460. Twitter @DD_MSpeakman.

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