By R. Alan Richarsdon
The Lady Dogs rebounded from a huge loss to Buford a few days earlier by winning their first round game of the Sweet South Tournament at home. They ripped through Eastside 59-39. It wasn’t nearly that close. Coach Josh Reeves played his second unit by emptying his bench for the entire fourth quarter. It was over early as Morgan outscored the Lady Eagles 22-0 in the first period. Yep, Eastside went scoreless. They had a chance to get on the board with 45 seconds remaining when they stepped to the line and clanked two free throws.
Salina Fortune had her way in the paint all night scoring 10 during the first eight minutes to lead the Bulldogs. She was a force on the boards and blocked or altered shots throughout the contest. Eastside had no answer for her inside presence. The girls had superior ball movement and played stifling defense against an offensively challenged opponent.
MOCO got a little sloppy in the second quarter scoring only 10 points on the play of Tatyana Davis and sophomore Santaji Redi combining for eight of the team’s total. Sarah Couch was instrumental as well with an incredible assist to Davis in transition. The lead swelled to 26 at the break 33-7.
After halftime Morgan put the Lady Eagles out of the misery with a 14-0 run while holding Eastside to a measly three points. Reid and Davis were leading the onslaught offensively, but Fortune and others gave some opportunities to them with some timely assists. Morgan was up forty points after three quarters.
The second unit came in to mop things up in the final period. Tamia Benford and Taylor Wilson both got their names in the book accounting for all five points during the final period. The final was 59-29.
With a chance to advance to the championship game on Friday, the Lady Dogs took on Mill Creek High School in the second round. The hope for a trip to the finals was squashed by the Lady Hawks in a close game 55-48. It was a physical game where a lot of time was spent at the free throw line by both squads.
Morgan jumped out to a first quarter 14-8 lead as Davis scored six with her slashing style of driving to the basket. However, a couple of three-pointers by Mill Creek kept them close. It was nip and tuck throughout the second period with three ties during that span. The visitors went 6-7 from the charity stripe and hit two more threes on the way to a 22-22 score at the break. Autumn Woodard and Fortune led the scoring in the second quarter with three points each.
The Lady Hawks came out hot after the break hitting four three’s in the third quarter. Coach Reeves called a timeout after Morgan went down by nine 33-24 midway through the period. The Dogs scratched their way back to within four, but it seemed like Mill Creek always had an answer for their runs. Davis had seven to keep things close. The quarter ended 40-32 and the girls had a hill to climb for the final eight minutes.
The game tightened up but so did the officials as the two teams shot 29 free throws combined. The ladies had some golden opportunities at the line but couldn’t capitalize going 5-12. Morgan closed the gap to within three at 43-46 with 3:24 remaining in the game, but that was as close as they would get. Mill Creek kept the girls at arm’s length winning it by seven. Fortune again had a nice game as did Aris Hubbard on the boards. Sophomore Santija Reid continues to show improvement and is getting more minutes while Couch and Lou Reid played their steady game as usual.
With the loss to Mill Creek Morgan would now play Luella in the consolation round for a third or fourth place finish. This was as close a game as you could ever see. The number of ties and lead changes in the second half kept everyone on the edge of their seats. The Lady Dogs took a tough loss in the end by one point 74-73.
Morgan took a quick 7-2 lead before the Lady Lions reeled off 14 straight points to lead by five 18-13 at the end of one quarter. Coach Reeves let the referees know that he was not happy about the free throw disparity. Morgan did not shoot a charity shot the first quarter while the visitors went 9-12 from the line.
Luella continued to build on their lead in the second quarter before Morgan began to chip away at the nine-point deficit with an 8-2 run. The half ended with the Lady Dogs down by only two 29-27. Seniors Davis and Fortune again led the team offensively during the first half with a number of other players contributing.
Both teams came out of the locker room determined that they would not go easily. In the first six minutes of the third quarter there were nine lead changes, but Morgan finished the quarter strong. The Lady Dogs dashed out to a 10-point lead after outscoring the Lions 13-2 in the last two minutes of the period to take a comfortable 51-41 lead.
However, Morgan called timeout with 5:12 remaining after Luella charged back to trail by three. The three-ball was the weapon the Lady Lions used to take the lead at 62-61 hitting five from behind the line in the final quarter. The Dogs never regained the lead. They had no answer defensively for Luella in the final two minutes when they just couldn’t get the stops they needed to pull off the win.
The Lady Dogs should be proud of their efforts throughout the tournament and grabbing the fourth place finish. It was a highly competitive field of eight teams with AAAAAAA Mill Creek (14-1) taking away first-place honors in the girls’ bracket.