By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
If you missed this one, you missed one of the best high school games ever played in the annals of Morgan County basketball. It was a barn burner of a game that came down to the final shot. With the Dogs leading by three in the final seconds of the game, South Atlanta hit a deep corner three that was nothing more than a prayer to tie the game with only 10 seconds remaining. Senior Devorious Brown pushed the ball up court to freshman sensation Alec Woodard. Woodard, one of Morgan’s biggest outside threats, was promptly covered by two Hornets. He quickly flipped the ball back to Brown somewhere west of the Bobby Jones Expressway. It was never in doubt. Morgan’s bench erupted as they swarmed Brown on the court after the dagger. The shot gave Morgan a 64-61 win that propelled them into the state basketball championship game for the third straight year. Head Coach Jamond Sims described it this way, “Pure relief.
We were up three and felt like we had the game in hand. They made an amazing three pointer to tie it up, but Alec didn’t panic and Devorious caught his pass in rhythm from 25 feet to put us in the championship game.” The two halves were exact opposites with South Atlanta controlling the game for two plus quarters. The Dogs fell behind out of the gate 8-0, but pulled it back to 11-8 at the end of the first quarter on the play of Jailyn Ingram and Jordan Ford. The second quarter was owned by South Atlanta as they outscored Morgan 22-11 in the period to take a commanding 14 point lead, 33-19 lead into the half. Ford helped keep the Dogs within striking distance scoring eight first half points.
The Dogs were down by as many as 15 in the third quarter when Sims called a timeout. It was at that point that assistant coach Jonathan (Buck) Nelson had seen enough. He loudly and strongly called out the players and got under some shirts and it seemed to work. Down 40-25, the Dogs began to scrap, claw, and bite their way into the lead. Ingram, Woodard, and Ford asserted themselves and the lead dissolved to six points at 44-38 by the end of three quarters. You could see the doubt in the South Atlanta players’ eyes at that point. They were reeling. Woodard had an out of body experience in the fourth quarter. He scored eight of Morgan’s first 10 points to take their first lead 48-46 with 3:41 to go. Six of those came from the free throw line. The last three minutes were a flurry of exchanges from two heavy weights that featured three lead changes and three ties. The only one that counted was the last one. What a game it was! The defining stat for the Bulldogs was the free throw shooting in the final period. Woodard was 8-8 and Ingram was 2-2 giving the boys a perfect 10-10 to South Atlanta’s 2-2.
The next step is another trip to the Centreplex in Macon. Earlier in the tournament last week, the Bulldogs had to face another challenge in Laney just to get to the final four and it was not easy. Morgan trailed 27-26 going into the half, but still seemed to be in control of the game. Sims again commented, “It was a little less stressful than the South Atlanta game. We had one of our worst shooting percentage outings we’ve had all year, but were still were in striking distance going into the second half. There was no panic on our part. We were in control of the tempo of the game and kept their two guards in check that were both averaging about 20 points per game. We held one to 18 and the other to four points on the night. Jailyn was huge for us and Alec was big again in the second half.” Laney started out with a game plan to shut down Morgan’s leading scorer, Ingram, by uncharacteristically double teaming him out of a 2-3 zone.
In the first two meetings between the two teams this season, Laney had used a zone press and man-to-man defensively. The Dogs employed their 2-3 zone for the majority of the game without using much full court pressure against Laney’s outstanding quickness. Morgan took the lead in the third quarter and never trailed again using a disciplined style of spread offense against Laney’s half court run-and-jump trap. The boys led 39-34 going into the final stanza. Sims said, “Once we got the lead they had to play us man and that’s when we spread the floor and took some air out of the ball to our advantage. Alec hit a big two point shot in the fourth quarter and we closed it out on some great free throw shooting.” Morgan has been lights out at the free throw line over the past few games and this one was no different. The Dogs were again on point with Brown going 8-10 in the final quarter to take the 55-50 win. Now it’s on to Macon to face the Jenkins High School Warriors at 4:45 on Saturday, a team they are very familiar with. Jenkins defeated Morgan last year in the finals by two. This one will have a revenge factor for the Dogs.