An upset of monumental proportions almost became reality Saturday night in the Championship bout of the 8-AAA Region basketball tournament. The Morgan County Lady Dogs came close to winning their fifth straight Region Tournament against undefeated and second-ranked Franklin County (27-0), but came up short in a valiant effort 63-54. The final score doesn’t indicate the tenacity and guts the girls played with against a talented opponent; nor does it show how close this one really was.
With only 1:45 remaining in regulation, senior forward Aris Hubbard went above the crowd to grab an offensive rebound off her own miss. On the second attempt she was fouled in the act of shooting to pull the Lady Dogs within three points at 57-54. However, Morgan did not score after that as they watched the Lady Lions tally the final six points of the game going 4-5 from the line down the home stretch. Morgan was 0-4 on free throws during that same time span. With the loss the Lady Dogs took home the second place trophy in 8-AAA. Hubbard finished the night with 14 followed by Taylor Wilson’s 13 and Lou Reid’s 10.
Coach Josh Reeves stated after the game, “We had a slow start, but we weren’t playing bad. We missed some opportunities early and they didn’t. I thought we competed in the first half a little better than against Hart. We finally started playing like we were capable of in the middle of the second quarter, but after Lou (Reid) rolled her ankle we lost some momentum and went down five at the half. The girls made a nice pushback in the second half. I thought Taylor Wilson played well. When she gets confident, she turns it around getting fouled on drives to her left or right, making some great passes, and pushing the tempo. The foul trouble and matchups were a problem for us. Franklin went small that was a bad matchup for us when we wanted to play Jamie (Puckett) more on the inside for her post defense and rebounding. We had to go with four guards, but Tamia Benford fouled out and we had to go with some younger players who played well. Our All-Region selections (Powell, Reid, Hubbard) represented us well and showed why they belong on that elite list. We also got a little glimpse of the future this week with Neshay Cobb, Arkisha Williams, Kourtney Elder, Miracle Hunter, and other underclassmen showing how much they’ve improved. It was an exciting week for us. Now we just have to get ready for some State Tournament basketball.”
They will have at least one home game in the State Tournament as they host North Hall (most likely on Saturday, Feb 17). Official times have not been announced.
The Lady Dogs started off the tournament playing East Jackson at Monroe Area on Tuesday. Morgan finished tied for second in regular season region play, but lost the coin toss to Hart County. Due to that unlucky toss, the girls had to play a first-round matchup with the Lady Eagles in a #3 vs #6 game. It was obvious from the opening tip that East Jackson didn’t belong on the floor with the Lady Dogs as they jumped out to a 10-2 first quarter advantage.
East Jackson employed a triangle and two defense to try and slow down the scoring tandem of Lou Reid and Miranda Powell, but it didn’t work. You can’t play defense if you can’t get the ball across midcourt against the Morgan County full-court press. The press and Morgan’s swarming man-to-man half-court defense was simply too much for the beleaguered Eagles. They didn’t score a field goal in the first quarter and only had one bucket going into halftime. Their free throw shooting didn’t help their cause as East Jackson went 4-17 in the first half. Taylor Wilson and Reid accounted for eight of Morgan’s ten first quarter points.
Up 17-4, Coach Josh Reeves employed a 1-3-1 trapping zone the remainder of the night that was equally as stifling on a night when the Morgan defense shined. The final outcome was 50-23 and it was on to the semifinals and the State Tournament with the win.
Morgan took on Hart County on day two of the tournament. It was one of the most exciting finishes you will ever see and put the Lady Dogs into the Championship Matchup Saturday night against the still undefeated Franklin County Lady Lions. A Neshay Cobb offensive rebound and putback with 27.9 seconds left was just enough for Morgan to grab a 51-49 comeback win. MOCO only led twice in the contest at 4-2 and on the final shot by Cobb.
This one didn’t look good for the Lady Dogs through the first three plus quarters of play with Morgan trailing by as many as 10 points early in the final period. Their outside shooting touch is one of Morgan’s strengths but it just wasn’t there on this night. The girls struggled mightily from beyond the arc and the usual string music the fans are accustomed to almost put the girls into the losers’ bracket. But, this group found a way to win in the closing minutes even after leading scorer Reid fouled out. Powell was huge in the win making big shots when they most needed them and finished the night with 15 for Morgan. She put the final nail in the coffin with 1.7 seconds when she made one of two free throws.
Reeves left us with these comments, “North Hall has played some of our Region opponents losing twice to Hart and once to Franklin. I’ll tell you this. They will be well-coached, fundamentally sound, and will protect the basketball. It will be a smart team that doesn’t give up layups, limits you to one shot possessions with their defensive rebounding, and doesn’t turn the ball over. We will have to maximize our rotation on defense by using our athletic ability and speed to push the tempo.”
North Hall is the #3 seed from Region 7-AAA with a record of 14-13 overall.