By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
The Morgan County Bulldogs’ basketball team has been in the elite teams in the state for at least five years now. The program is producing college players and winning teams that have competed at the highest level. Five straight region championships. Five straight winning seasons. Three straight 20-game win seasons state championship appearances. This is a special time for the Bulldogs with special players and special coaches that have set the bar pretty high for years to come. At no time in the basketball history of this school have we seen this level of play. State Championships do not come easy. Most players, coaches, and schools go a lifetime without experiencing a single one. This class of seniors provided us with not one, but two. Read more about the historical significance of this team on our Congratulations to Morgan County page.
The Dogs came into the game with revenge on their mind as they lost to Jenkins-Savannah last year in the finals to halt a legendary three-peat after the team won the 2014 title. The defending champions were trying to make their mark as well with back-to-back trophies in their trophy case as well. Neither team was backing down in this one. Both teams came out fighting and this one would not be for the meek or weary. Jenkins took first blood, but Jordan Ford and Jailyn Ingram carried the torch for the Dogs in the first quarter scoring nine of the team’s first 11. Jenkins took a one-point lead on a last second steal to take the 12-11 advantage at the end of the first eight minutes. Ford, an all-region selection averaging 14 points and six rebounds on the season, along with Ingram, the 8-AAA player-of-the-year, continued to assert themselves as Morgan took a five-point lead with 2:42 remaining in the half on two free throws by Ingram. Jenkins fought back with a three point play and a long three-pointer before finishing the half on a 10-1 run to take the lead 28-26 at intermission. Coach Jamond Sims made these statements at the half, “We need to clean up the little things and end our defensive possessions. They did a good job on the offensive glass with some of their small guards getting offensive rebounds and scoring on them. Our guys also need to do a better job of being ball tough on outlet passes and continue to get the ball to guys in great spots.” The Dogs fell behind by five early in the third quarter, but stormed back to tie the game at 34-34 with 3:50 left. Jenkins quickly went up by four before the Dogs ended the third on an 8-0 run spurred by Ingram, Ford, and Emmanuel Little.
It was game on and Morgan went to their stud Ingram in the fourth when it counted. He was a beast in the paint and on isolation plays that Jenkins had no answer for. Ingram finished the night with 28 points with 11 in the final stanza that lifted the Dogs to the 66-56 win and the 2016 State Championship. The fourth was no cupcake though. Jenkins cut the lead to four with 2:38 left but the Dogs continued their late free throw shooting excellence going 11-14 from the stripe in the final 3:18 of the game to help seal the deal. Stats for the game included Ingram’s 28 points and nine rebounds, Ford’s 17 and five boards, Brown’s eight points and four assists, along with Little’s six points and three assists.
The four seniors go out having never finished lower than being in the Elite Eight over their four-year careers. Ingram commented after the game, “This was the rubber match for us with Jenkins. We won it two years ago and then they beat us last year. We had to bring the pain and get them and be victorious.” Devorious Brown added, “It feels good, really good, to do it with my brothers. It’s a family affair at Morgan County to be both the boys and girls AAA state champions.” Coach Jamond Sims seemed relieved when he said, “It’s really hard to put into words in front of the best fans in the state of Georgia and in the whole country. We’ve all worked very hard to get here with one of the greatest teams and greatest staffs you could ask for. It’s one of the best moments ever. I’ll bet there are sixth and seventh grade kids playing basketball in Madison, Georgia right now.”