There’s no rest for the weary the saying goes. Such is true for Morgan County’s hardcourt Dogs as they start the season by playing five games in their first 10 days against some stout competition. The Lady Dogs are coming off another Region 8-AAA Region Championship in 2017 to make it four-in-a-row. To repeat that performance won’t be easy, but what this team may lack in experience, they certainly make up for in grit and determination. Only three seniors return for their final hoorah and the graduation of quality scorers, defense, size, and rebounding will be hard to replace for a Final Four Team from a year ago.
Coach Josh Reeves seems positive that his young troops will be up to the task. He told us, “Overall we’re young with a majority of our depth being sophomores. I’d say our depth is young, but we have some senior leadership in Aris Hubbard, Jamie Puckett, and Morgan Walker. In these early games I’ve been pleased with the energy our youth has been bringing off the bench. They’ve been doing a great job for what little experience they have.”
The Lady Dogs haven’t been blown out in either of their losses against Mill Creek or Jefferson. Reeves commented, “We’re learning how to win and finish games. We just didn’t close like we should have in those two losses. We were back-and-forth with Mill Creek and Jefferson and defeated a ranked team in LaGrange. It was a one possession game with Jefferson at 38-35. We had our chances but hit a spurt where we were unfocused and turned the ball over. Once we got down the girls battled and scrapped, but just didn’t have enough to get the job done in the end. These first four games have been a good learning experience for us against strong competition. We’ve grown a lot over the first week and a half and will only get better with experience.”
In Morgan’s first four games they defeated Cambridge in the first round of the Jefferson Kickoff Tournament 55-32, lost to host Jefferson 55-37, and lost to Mill Creek. They defeated LaGrange 51-43 last Friday at the LaGrange Ladies’ Night.
One of Morgan’s returning starters is Lou Reid. She weighed in on the season to this point. “We’ve played pretty good, but it could have been better. I thought we should have won the Jefferson game, but they shot 20 free throws in the fourth quarter to win the game. Coach was proud of our team defense, playing team ball, communication, and positive attitude during all the games.” Senior Aris Hubbard told us, “We played solid, but our rebounding was a little suspect. We need to think ‘MORE’ when getting after rebounds. Lou played well for us in all four games.” In Friday’s contest at LaGrange the bench played their part in the win, according to both Reeves and Reid.
This past week the girls lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Cedar Shoals 57-56, another close one to Putnam County 46-39, and a not-so-close one to top-ranked Buford. The highlight of the week was the Friday night Cedar Shoals contest at home in front of a good crowd. Morgan gave one of their best-ever efforts, falling short in the end. If this is the kind of energy they give on a nightly basis, this young team will be one to watch as they mature over the season.
The Lady Dogs were led by junior guard Lou Reid who carried Morgan with 25 points for a career high. She scored 11 of MOCO’s first quarter 19 points and was a whirling dervish on the defensive end and on the boards. The fact that she played through an injury throughout the contest made the effort that much more impressive. Morgan was without the services of starting forward Aris Hubbard who was hobbled with an ankle injury.
Morgan took a 19-11 first quarter advantage with their stifling man-to-man defense. Had it not been for the flurry of six points in the final 35 seconds of the period by the Lady Jaguars, the lead could have been even more. Coach Josh Reeves’ team continued their solid play throughout the half to take a 34-25 advantage into the intermission. Senior Morgan Walker was instrumental with her first half scoring (eight points), rebounding, and defense playing her best game of the season while junior transfer Miranda Powell took care of the basketball and added six to the total.
The first half effort seemed to take a toll on the Lady Dogs. On top of that Reid was shackled with fouls and didn’t play as much as Reeves would have liked. Cedar Shoals employed a 1-2-1-1 press to start the half and created problems for Morgan. They trimmed the lead to five at 45-40 after three quarters of play.
A three-pointer by Cedar to start the fourth made it a two point game and the dogfight was on. The final three minutes of regulation saw two lead changes and two ties. With Morgan leading 50-51 and 35 seconds on the clock, Powell came up with a steal and was fouled. She made the second of two free throws but that was followed by misses on two front ends of one-and-one free throw opportunities. The Lady Jaguars made a bucket with 7.3 seconds to knot the score, but Morgan couldn’t get off a shot to go for the win. This put the game into overtime.
Morgan again missed the front end of a one-and-one and Cedar took advantage by making one of two free throws to take a 52-51 advantage. Sophomore Taylor Wilson was fouled with 2:20 to go and sank one to tie things up. Cedar scored on a driving layup, but Reid took things into her own hands converting on a three-point play the old-fashioned way with under a minute to play. Cedar got a basket with 29 ticks on the clock to take back the lead 56-55. However, Neshay Cobb’s only point on the night was a huge free throw with 18.1 remaining that tied it up for MOCO. Cedar missed two free throws with 12.7 seconds, but Morgan turned the ball over on their possession and fouled a Lady Jag player. She made one free throw with 8.1 left to seal the win at 57-56. It was a heart-breaking way to lose one for Morgan. What an effort they gave!
Morgan plays again this Friday, Dec. 8 at Jefferson.