By Alvin Richardson
For the fourth year in a row the Morgan County boys walked away with a region basketball title and the Lady Dogs lifted their second consecutive region championship trophy Saturday night at Emmanuel College.
The boys captured the crown with a hard-fought 74-67 win over a hot-shooting Hart County team and the girls avenged their only region loss with a 52-33 rout of Jefferson’s Lady Dragons.
Both Morgan County teams will enter the state basketball tournament as number one seeds.
The Lady Dogs were tentatively scheduled to host Franklin County on Tuesday, February 17 and the boys were slated to play Lumpkin County on Wednesday, February 18. Game times had not been determined. Franklin and Lumpkin were the number four seeds from Region 7AAA.
The final set of rankings are out (no more until after the state tournament) and the Morgan County boys are ranked third and the girls are ranked eighth.
Boys Region Championship Game
Mississippi State Commit Tookie Brown
Pours in 37 Lead to Dogs to Title
In a battle of the Bulldogs Morgan County faced a Hart County team that they had handled with relative ease twice during the regular season. It didn’t matter as the Orange and Black Bulldogs from Hartwell played a gritty game and held a hot hand all night from behind the three point arc. It was a nip and tuck contest from the outset and Hart County made 14 treys scoring 42 of their sixty seven points from long distance to make this one a game. But they couldn’t overcome Tookie Brown.
Morgan’s indomitable guard didn’t have his best shooting night but he wound up with 37 points scored on dizzying array of twisting drives, a couple of triples, a bunch of free throws and a pair of breakaway dunks. “I’m glad it’s (the region tournament) over. That tight game in the finals against Hart County was probably good for us. Our supporting cast has really stepped up and is playing well and that’s going to be a key for us down the road.
The community support has been great this season and I hope they will continue to rally around us. It is a difference maker,” said Head Coach Jamond Sims. The first quarter provided some fireworks as both teams got off the mark with hot hands from the floor. Tied at 5-5 Jailyn Ingram put the Dogs on top with a thunder dunk off a lob to make it 7-5 but Hart came back with four unanswered points to take a two point lead at 9-7 halfway through the period.
Moments later Brown made an acrobatic reverse layup that he somehow was able to spin into the basket to tie it up at 9-9. From that point Hart made two three-pointers, a putback and a short jump shot to take a 19-14 lead as the quarter wound down. Morgan’s Deshaven Reynolds cut that lead to 19-17 with 17 seconds left in the period with a long three-point shot and the battle was on. The second quarter was another barn burner.
Neither team could shake the other and the biggest lead came when Hart hit another three ball at the 5:21 mark of the period to take a 28-23 lead. MCHS fought back and finally managed a 35-33 led when Brown made a trey at the 1:58 mark. Brown followed that up with a pair of free throws to widen the lead to 37-33 but Hart wouldn’t fold and scored the last four points of the half on another three-point shot and a free throw to leave the game knotted 37-37 at intermission.
Hart made eight three point shots in the first half and no one expected them to continue to shoot at that blistering pace but they opened the third quarter with another one and led 40-37. For the rest of that period the two teams banged away at each other and the lead continued to change hands.
Morgan County managed to build four point leads a couple of times through the period but each time Hart County fought back and closed the gap. With 1:49 left in the third quarter Ingram put the Dogs up 56-52 on a pair of free throws but with eight seconds remaining in the quarter Hart County hit another bomb and at the end of three periods Morgan County held a slender one point lead. The Dogs finally earned themselves a little daylight in the final period of play.
Al Reid made a short jumper and Brown made a layup and a free throw. When Ingram came up with an offensive rebound and putback and the Dogs had their biggest lead of the night at 64-57 with 4:20 left in the contest. The Dogs hung on to that margin until Brown was fouled on a stickback. That field goal and free throw gave Morgan a 68-59 lead with just 56 seconds left. Hart County could get no closer than five points and Morgan County held on and to win their fourth region title in a row. Brown led all scorers with 37 and Ingram contributed 15 big points in the win. Other scorers for the Dogs were: Devorious Brown with eight, Deshaven Reynolds with six, Joseph Rogers and Jermaine Alexander with three apiece and Al Reid with two.
Girls Region Championship Game
Fierce Defense and Rebounding Effort Keys Title Win
The Morgan County Lady Dogs turned what most thought would be a closely contested game into a laugher as they pounced on the Jefferson Lady Dragons from the outset and won their second consecutive region championship in style by a final score of 52-33. Jefferson had earned the number one seeding for the tourney via a coin flip after the two teams split their season series but Morgan County was clearly the better team on this night. “Our girls played a strong game defensively and that allowed a lot of our offense to come after solid defensive stops or turnovers. Everyone on the team contributed on the defensive end in a big way,” said Coach Joshua Reeves.
The Lady Dogs used an aggressive zone defense, and relentless rebounding on both ends of the court to subdue Jefferson. Their defensive effort provided plenty of open court opportunities for their offense and Pumpkin Brown, Sydney Nash, and Tatyna Davis took full advantage of those chances. Brown and Davis made life miserable for Jefferson with their slashing drives and outside shooting and Nash was a demon on the inside getting rebounds, making outlet passes, forcing tie-ups and just making life miserable for Jefferson all night long. Additionally Jateriea Bryant shut down Jefferson’s inside scoring and Brittany Belser ran Morgan’s offense and provided cat-quick defense on the perimeter throughout the contest. Morgan County set the tone in this one early.
They ran out to a 16-6 lead at the end of one quarter and held on to that advantage throughout the second period to take a 28-18 lead to the dressing room. The third period proved pivotal as the Lady Dogs hounded Jefferson on defense and limited them to seven points in the quarter while they were scoring fourteen of their own. The Lady Dogs led 42-25 at the end of three periods and Jefferson never came close to mounting a comeback.
Morgan County ran out to a 9-2 lead with an early spurt. Pumpkin Brown got it started with a steal and a layup, Nash made a free throw, Tatyana Davis picked off two more passes and sprinted for a layups, and Brown connected on two more free throws to get the night off on a positive note. The Lady Dogs built their lead to 13-6 and with time winding down in the quarter Tatyana Davis found the bottom of the basket with a three point shot to give Morgan County a ten point lead at 16-6 and for the remainder of the night Jefferson could get no closer than seven points. Morgan County put the Lady Dragons away in the third period.
They got a short jumper from Davis and a follow shot from Nash to increase their lead to 32-18 early in the quarter and then held that fourteen point lead the rest of the period. The final period was just icing on the cake. Nash hit two free throws at the 3:52 mark of the final period to widen the margin to 48-30 and Davis made it a twenty point lead with a follow just moments later. Pumpkin Brown led the scoring with 21 points and was supported by Tatyana Davis with 17 and Sydney Nash with 10. Jatariea Bryant and Autumn Woodward chipped in 2 points each in the win. Girls Round One Game – Morgan County 58 – East Jackson 26 The Morgan County Lady Dogs easily swatted 7th seed East Jackson Panthers aside last Tuesday night in the opening round of the Region 8AAA tournament.
This one was over quickly as the Dogs bolted out of the gate, opened up a 17-1 lead by the end of the first quarter and cruised to victory. Playing at home Morgan was able to go their bench early in this contest and help keep fresh legs intact for their normal rotation in a week which would see the Lady Dogs play three contests. Morgan County led 27-10 at the half and increased that cushion to 42-16 at the end of three quarters.
They then posted sixteen more points in the final quarter in the thirty two point blowout. Eleven Lady Dogs got in the scoring column in the combined effort. Tatyana Davis led the Bulldogs with 15 points and Pumpkin Brown added 14 to lead the charge but the Lady Dogs had a lot of contributors in this one. Autumn Woodard chipped in 6, Salina Fortune’ added 5, Myishia Williams and Alisha Ellis scored 4 apiece and Sydney Nash, Brittany Belser, Tyra Smith, Jatariea Bryant, and Taleah Adams all contributed 2 points. Girls Round Two Game – Morgan County 48 – Oconee County 38 Morgan County’s Lady Dogs took on the Oconee County Warriors in the semifinal round of the Region 8AAA tournament at Emanuel College in Franklin Springs on Friday night.
In contrast to the first round game against East Jackson the Dogs had had their work cut out for them. Oconee County’s game plan called for a deliberate, methodical offense coupled with a tight zone defense that dared the Lady Dogs to take outside shots. The strategy was effective and kept the Warriors close the entire game. The score was 5-5 with 2:57 left in the first quarter before Morgan went on a 6-0 run to finish the opening period. Autumn Woodard hit a short baseline jumper as the buzzer sounded to polish off that spurt and give Morgan County an 11-5 lead at the end of the first quarter of play. Morgan post player Salina Fortune’ was injured just moments into the second period and did not return (status unknown) but her loss to Morgan’s inside game was a significant one.
Nonetheless the Lady Dogs were able to add to their six point lead before halftime. They rode three point field goals by Sydney Nash and Brittany Belser, a driving layup by Belser, and a short jump shot by Tatyana Davis to help boost their cushion to 23-14 by intermission. But Oconee wouldn’t go away. Still using their deliberate style of offense the Warriors cut the lead to 25-18 at the 5:33 mark of the third quarter but Davis countered that with a long trey to boost Morgan’s lead back to ten points with 3:45 left in the period. Oconee came right back with a three-pointer of their own and just kept hanging tough.
Davis nailed another three and Nash made a driving layup to make it 35-21 at the 1:35 mark and it looked like the Lady Dogs were ready to put it away but still the Warriors didn’t give in. Morgan led 40-26 as the final quarter opened but Oconee County made a three point shot and then went on a 7-0 run in the space of just over a minute early in the fourth period. All of a sudden that fourteen point lead was down to six at 42-36 with 5:14 to play.
The Lady Dogs responded as Brittany Belser took a charge, Davis made a free throw and added a driving layup, and Nash found the basket on a short layup after a pretty assist from Davis. Ta’Leah Adams added four more in that run to get the lead back up to twelve points at 48-36 with 1:10 left to play and the hay was finally in the barn. The game ended with a 48-38 win for the Lady Dogs to propel them into the region championship game.
Tatyana Davis led the scoring with 14, Pumpkin Brown tacked on 13, and Sydney Nash added 9 more. Other scoring included Brittany Belser with 5, Tyra Smith with 4, Autumn Woodard with 2 and Jatariea Bryant with one. Boys Semifinal Game – Morgan County 77 – East Jackson 34 The Morgan County boys’ basketball team opened play in the Region 8AAA tournament by shellacking the East Jackson Panthers to the tune of 77-34.
This was the first game Morgan had to play because they received a bye in the first round. East Jackson came in with a respectable 6-6 record in region play and were seeded fifth but the Panthers never had a chance in this one. Junior forward Jailyn Ingram opened the scoring with a thunder dunk on a lob from Tookie Brown just moments into the contest to get the Morgan County crowd geeked up and then Brown followed with a deep trey on the next possession to make it 5-0 less than two minutes into the contest. Guard Al Reid followed that up with a three-pointer of his own just fifteen seconds later to make it 8-2 and after East Jackson scored a bucket Tookie Brown came up with a steal, drove the length of the court and slammed down two more to the delight of the Morgan County faithful.
That made it 10-4 and the Dogs were off to the races. Ingram followed up Brown’s dunk with another one off a steal, Devorious Brown got busy with an offensive rebound and putback, Jermaine Alexander made a layup and Brown bolted down the lane to score an acrobatic layup to make it 18-4. The Bulldogs ran off those ten points in about a minute and a half and from that point it was just a matter of how large the final margin would be.
The Dogs led 24-9 at the quarter mark and 50-20 by intermission then put it on cruise control for the rest of the evening. Most of the starters played about half the game and even at that the younger players added to the lead in the final two periods of play. The Dogs widened their lead to 68-30 by the end of the third quarter and added nine more points in the final stanza to win going away. The win put Morgan County in the Region Championship game against Hart County. Mississippi State signee Tookie Brown scored 22 in one half of action and thirteen of those came in the first quarter. The rest of the point totals went like this: Jailyn Ingram had 15, Al Reid scored 12 and Deshaven Reynolds contributed 8. Additionally Devorious Brown, Stacion McClelland, and Jermaine Alexander each chipped in 6, and Joseph Rogers had 2 in the win.