By R. Alan Richardson
The hardcourt Dogs finished up a stretch of six games that started this past week on January 13 by defeating Jackson County 101-44 and Franklin County 85-44 to remain in 8-AAA’s first place spot. Morgan remains undefeated in league play and has a 14-5 record. Two close losses to tough competition in the MLK Invitational held in Tallahassee lowered the Dogs’ AAA state ranking status to number six overall.
The Jackson County game was one more of a head-scratcher for most who attended the game. The Panthers played the entire game in a full-court press, run and gun style against Morgan’s superior athleticism. The question is WHY? The Dogs led 30-13 at the quarter and 60-23 at the half coasting to a 57 point victory. JC employed this tactic buzzer to buzzer knowing that Morgan would “bust the clock” on them before it was over.
The biggest concern in this important region game was that the boys were playing their fifth game in five days. Would they be worn down from the long trip to Florida and would they be focused and ready to play. It didn’t take long to answer those two questions. The Bulldogs came out swarming on defense creating havoc with steals, blocked shots, deflections, and what looked more like the UNLV Runnin’ Rebs of the early 1990’s. Layups, dunks, and a high shooting percentage led to the blowout. Every player contributed in a fun game to watch where JC was out-paced and overmatched from the tip.
If you look at the final score of Friday’s game with Franklin, you might think it was pretty much a similar start to finish contest. That was not the case. The Dogs came out sluggish and looked tired in the first quarter employing their man-to-man defense and the Lions carved them up. The earlier matchup this season between these two was a lopsided victory for Morgan. The Dogs may have been taking their foe a little lightly. After eight minutes of play the score was 19-16 Franklin.
The conversation in the huddle saw the coaches dressing down their team for a lack of effort. Whatever was said they must have heard it loud and clear. The Dogs went to a 1-2-2 half-court trap and reeled off 29 straight points before Franklin got a field goal. Now, that’s more like it. The Bulldogs led 49-24 at intermission. They kept the pedal on the gas the second half to take the 85-44 win.
After the game, Coach Jamond Sims was asked what was said in the huddle after the first period and he just smiled. Maybe it wasn’t rated for prime time. “It was good to see the guys lock in on defense and get turnovers to spark the offense. We know what we can get from Alec (Woodard) and Tyrin (Lawrence), but the boost in bench production was huge. Austin (Hoopengardner) had seven rebounds and Stevin (Greene) had six assists in the second half alone, with his quickness and passing the ball that way….we can really space the floor. The range covered for steals and blocks by (Anthony) Cooper allows us to trap more aggressively in the half court. The ball pressure from (Jordan) Huff and (Dee) Lawrence makes ball handlers uncomfortable and speeds them up into turnovers.”
Next up for Morgan will be an away region game with the Hart County Bulldogs. Tip-off is 6 pm for the girls and 7:30 pm for the boys.