By R. Alan Richardson
Morgan County’s Bulldogs continue to strut their stuff on the hardcourt in the first round of the State AAA Basketball Tournament. For the past several years MOCO has been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to playoff basketball. Six straight Region Championships have given this team the confidence and been there done that attitude you need when it comes time to lace ‘em up. There’s nothing like experience when you start down this road of trying to win five straight games and back-to-back State Titles.
In fact, the Dogs have won two of the last three titles and been to the finals three years straight. That experience comes from players who have already known what it feels like to hoist that trophy. Alec Woodard was a starter last year as a freshman, senior Jermaine Alexander has been around for a lot of playoff minutes, and Josiah Mitchell, Anthony Cooper, Damarian Thomas, Yusuf Baig along with others know what it takes. On top of all that, brothers Tyrin and De’Ivion Lawrence won a State Championship last season at Monticello (Jasper County).
Things that stick out about this team are depth, quickness, athleticism, relentlessness on defense, and again, experience. They are a fun group to watch and Adairsville found that out early.
Morgan trailed the visiting Tigers 2-1 before the onslaught started. Woodard put on an absolute shooting and scoring clinic from the opening tip that carried his team to a 20-3 first quarter lead. The action was similar to the girls’ game with the boys using their superior athletic ability and trapping defense to smother any ideas from Adairsville that they might stay in the game. Cooper, Stevin Greene, and Mitchell all gave the Dogs some valuable minutes and were vital offensively in the first quarter.
Bring the firetruck. Woodard was still on fire in the second quarter hitting two more three’s (he had five in the half) while others added to the damage. Damarian Thomas was all over the boards and blocking shots along with his sidekick Cooper. Thomas had six in the quarter and Cooper added four for the 40-16 lead at intermission. Coach Jamond Sims probably sent Woodard to the showers after a first half that gives you an understanding of why college coaches are squirming to see this guy graduate. They’ll have to wait two more years for that. He only had 22 of Morgan’s 40-point total.
It continued to be all Dogs in the second half. Highlights from the third quarter included Tyrin Lawrence heating up for 11 third quarter points, an unbelievable defensive sequence from Cooper where he blocked a shot out of nowhere, fell, and then recovered his own block, a three-pointer by crowd favorite Austin Hoopengardner, and a coast-to-coast drive and floater by Greene at the buzzer to end the third that gave the Dogs the 62-26 lead.
Latrabius Stokes, Jordan Huff, De’Ivion Lawrence and Hoopengardner (with another three) were vital in the last eight minutes and carried the Dogs to a 71-40 win.
The boys will now face off with Tattnall County at home on February 23. Time has not yet been determined. The number two seeded Warriors out of Region Six come to Morgan County after barely squeaking by Peach County 81-80 in the first round. They are 16-13 overall with a region record of 6-4.