It was a game that lived up to all the hype and fanfare it was billed to be. It was a game that was played like a state championship battle between two of the best teams in the state. From the over capacity crowd, to the intensity of play on every possession, to the fans hanging onto the edge of their seats on every pass, shot, steal, and rebound, it was a humdinger of a game. It was a game that was being played for bragging rights between two neighboring counties with elite basketball programs over the past many years. It was also a game that meant absolutely nothing in means of region or classification status, but you certainly wouldn’t have known it by the action on the floor. This one was serious business between two teams that can flat out ball.
Athletic Director Doug Connelly and former AD Steve Cisson agreed that it was the largest crowd assembled in Morgan County basketball history. It was standing room only covered in red vs blue that came out to see if little AAA Morgan County was as good as their 20-0 record said they were. Fans poured into the gym to see if the state-wide number seven Rams and their five-star point guard were that much better than the number 10 ranked Bulldogs. And, they got their money’s worth. It was a 65-61 thriller that went down to the wire.
What more could you have asked for? There were eight great teams slated to play in four state-wide games that included Jenkins-Savannah boys, number two in AAA right behind Morgan, Washington-Atlanta boys vs Monticello who are both ranked top 25 in AA, East Hall number 17 in AAA, and Newton number five in AAAAAAA. Well, the only thing better would have been a win by the WonderDog UnderDogs, but it wasn’t to be as Morgan went to 20-1 on the season to a talented opponent. There was nothing to hold your head down about after this one.
Morgan gave one of their best efforts of the season in the losing cause, and Alec Woodard showed why he can play at any high school level. The junior shooting guard lit it up for 31 points as he carried the Dogs the majority of the game making big shots at crucial moments. His running mate, junior guard Tyrin Lawrence, also showcased his abilities with 17 points and all-around game
So how did the two Bulldog stars fare against the highly-touted Ashton Hagans from Newton. The 6-3 University of Georgia commit ended the night with 17 unofficial points as he was harassed by 5-8 Stevin Green, athlete Jordan Huff, and others the entire night. Coach Jamond Sims decided to go with defenders other than Woodard or Lawrence to keep them
from getting into foul trouble. It was a great move by the veteran coach that almost worked.
Some tried to say that without their 6-5 center who was on a football recruiting trip; Newton would have beaten the Dogs badly. Well, don’t forget that MOCO’s starting center, Quin Williams, was on a similar visit of his own and strong forward Anthony Cooper was handcuffed with fouls that limited his playing time throughout the evening. Whatever the case, the Dogs almost slew the giant.
Both Jamond Sims and Rick Rasmussen agreed it was a game that will make their teams better prepared for the upcoming playoffs. Both were highly complementary of their opponent. And both coaches
Head Rams’ Coach Rick Rasmussen was highly impressed with how the Bulldogs played saying, “I thought our defense won it for us tonight. We weren’t particularly on fire and little number 11 Tyler Glover had a career-high 18. We were hoping someone would step up in our big man’s absence so we started Tyler who’s our sixth man and senior leader of this team. Morgan County was as good as advertised. The guys we thought could play could play. 22 (Woodard) and 2 (Lawrence) really filled it up. To have them be on fire and us still being able to come out with the win says a lot about the character of our kids, especially being on the road. Both teams deserve to be ranked in the top 10 in the entire state right now.”
Coach Sims commented, “I am extremely proud to coach these young men as they represent their school and community. Mistakes and miscues aside, they gave it their all. What I’m most proud of is the love and support that the community has given them. A Special Place!”
Earlier in the week MOCO defeated 7-A opponent Meadowcreek 50-44 in overtime and then thrashed Jackson County 79-48 before defeating Franklin County 66-49.
Highlights for those games included eight different players scoring against Meadowcreek on a night when Lawrence and Woodard didn’t have their best game and the team shooting 72% from the free throw line. It was the deciding factor in the game with the Mustangs going 5-15.
Stats for Jackson County were not available. At Franklin County the Dogs continued to show the value of their depth with nine players getting their name in the scoring column. According to the players and coaches the team did not have their best outing in this one. Maybe they were looking ahead to the Saturday brawl with Newton?
Next up for boys, girls, and JV teams is a road game at East Jackson Friday, Jan. 26 starting at 4:30.