By R. Alan Richardson
After the success over the past several years, it’s no surprise that the Morgan County boys’ basketball team is in the driver’s seat in the state AAA rankings. If you ask Coach Jamond Sims about it he would tell you this, “It’s very early in a long season. The only ranking we care about right now is the final one that comes out after the state tournament is completed.” The Bulldogs have won two of the past three state championships with a runner-up finish in between. In other words, they have been the team to beat over that span and are looking to defend their state title again in 2017.
Led by a group of super sophomores, MOCO has only lost three games (10-3 overall) this season. Two of those losses have come at the hands of highly-ranked AAAAA opponent Cedar Shoals and the other one to Greenville High School, a powerhouse in the state of South Carolina. Their strength of schedule comes into play in these rankings and the Dogs have played some tough competition throughout the year.
Those super sophomores include leading scorers Tyrin (Ty) Lawrence and Alec Woodard. Also included in this group would be starting point guard Stevin Greene and Jordan Huff. It looks like the Dogs will be a force for several years to come on the state scene. They are talented, deep off the bench, well-coached, and gritty. That combination can take you a long way.
Morgan began their region schedule last week with two quality wins over Franklin County and Hart County. The Dogs gave Franklin more than they could handle with a 73-40 beat down and Hart’s Bulldogs went home with their tails between their legs after a 77-57 walloping. Morgan looks primed to make a run at another region championship if they continue to play like they are capable and stay healthy.
The Dogs started the region slate off with Franklin County in Danielsville. The quickness, athleticism, and hustle shown by Morgan were more than the Lions could handle. The boys jumped out in the first period 20-7 and never looked back. It was 40-17 at the break and the lead continued to grow in the final two quarters as the Dogs outscored Franklin 33-23 for the final tally of 73-40.
MOCO showed a balanced attack offensively. Leading scorers were Ty Lawrence with 15, Anthony Cooper with 14, Alec Woodard with 12 (also dishing out six assists) and Steven Greene and Latrabius Stokes each adding nine. Cooper is playing well of late with his slashing style of play and tenacious defense. He also led the team in rebounds with eight while Woodard grabbed seven boards.
Friday’s home contest against Hart was moved back to Thursday with the threat of snow and ice being predicted for the weekend. The first play of the game might have been an omen for Hart that the Dogs were taking this rivalry game seriously. The tip-off went directly to a steaking Lawrence who tore the rim down on a resounding dunk. Morgan ran out to a 12-3 lead and the quarter ended 21-13. Sims decided to play a 10-man rotation to keep his troops rested and it paid off. The first unit outscored the visitors 14-3 in a streak that covered the end of the first quarter and extended into the second. Woodard scored six during the run and the Bulldogs dashed out to a 29-13 advantage midway through the quarter and took a 40-27 lead into the locker room.
Steals off the press, blocked shots, assists, and unselfish plays were the highlight of the third quarter as Morgan came out of the gate ready to put this one in the books. They scored nine straight to put Hart away early and remove any doubt as MOCO took a 22 point lead. Woodard had 10 in the third period to help Morgan’s cause. He finished the game with 28 to lead all scorers.
Morgan continued to keep Hart at a distance for the remainder of the second half and came away with the 77-57 win and their second region win of the week. The Putnam game scheduled for Saturday night was cancelled.
Next up for the Dogs and Lady Dogs will be on the road at East Jackson with a 6p.m. start for the girls followed by the boys. The JV boys will tipoff at 4:30p.m. prior to the varsity games.