For three quarters of basketball, Towers High School gave Morgan’s Bulldogs all they wanted and then some. Unfortunately for the Titans, it takes four to complete a game. The Dogs took full advantage of it outscoring the visitors 18-7 over the final eight minutes to grab a 64-49 win and a fifth straight trip to the AAA Elite Eight. That game will be played Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 p.m. in Madison after Morgan won the “universal toss” by the GHSA that applied to all remaining teams in the tournament. The Dogs were the “top” team in the bracket and received the favorable home court advantage.
The Dogs have yet to put a complete game together in the tournament. This game saw MOCO come out slowly. They trailed 8-4 before tying things up at 8-all and taking the lead on a flurry of plays by senior power forward Anthony Cooper. “Coop” made two buckets and two free throws scoring all six Bulldog points in the run. Towers answered and took the lead after the first quarter of play on a buzzer-beating three-pointer at 15-12.
Shooting poorly and unable to capitalize on turnovers, the Dogs were out of sync even though they were in total control of the glass most of the first half. The Titans used a balanced scoring attack and hit five three’s without a miss in the first half to go into intermission leading by eight 34-26.
The home crowd didn’t have much to cheer about for 16 minutes, but that all changed quickly when the second half kicked off. The Dogs went down by 11 when Towers hit their first shot of the half. Of course, it was another three. But two of Morgan’s All-Region stars went to work after that. Ty Lawrence and Stevin Green scored the next 12 points in an unanswered run that gave them the 38-37 lead with 5:00 remaining. Lawrence hit two three-pointers, one an NBA shot from the top of the key during that time frame while Green made a driving bucket and two free throws that capped the run and ended in a Towers timeout with 4:38. The crowd was back on their feet and into the game for the remainder of the evening. This was what they had expected from their hometown team.
The Titans played tough through the rest of the quarter. In one especially good 30-second scrum, Alec Woodard came up with back-to-back steals, Morgan missed two layups, and had one blocked only to relentlessly pursue the basketball. The melee ended on a tip-in by Quin Williams off a Bulldog miss to put Morgan up 44-40. The quarter ended 46-42 in the Dogs’ favor.
And then there was this quarter mentioned earlier; the fourth. It was a blitzkrieg. This team, and Coach Jamond Sims, prides themselves on their defense. It was in full effect for the next eight minutes as the Dogs completely smothered Towers. Think about this statistic. The Titans did not score a basket the entire quarter. They did go 7-9 from the free throw line, but that was all the scoring they got. Meanwhile, stalwarts Cooper, Woodard, and Lawrence along with another tip-in by Williams and a left-handed baseline drive by Green took the Titans to the cleaners offensively. All three players had five points each with Coop adding the explanation points on two monster dunks. Sims employed an aggressive 2-3 zone that completely stifled Towers over the final 6:30 of the game. The final score of 64-49 showed just how explosive the Dogs can be when they turn their game up a notch. Over that last stretch of 6:30, MOCO outscored Towers 15-4 for the victory.
Next up for Morgan will be the Central Macon Chargers. They will meet up in a Morgan home game Wednesday. The Chargers are currently on a nine game win streak and ranked eighth in AAA according to MaxPreps.com. Central has recorded a 22-5 record to this point and were 12-1 in Region 4-AAA having beaten Westside Macon 59-56 in the Region Championship. The first two rounds of State Tournament play for the Chargers saw them defeat Beach (Savannah) 67-39 and Long County (Ludowici) 62-49. No doubt, this will be Morgan’s toughest challenge to date in State Tournament action.
Two of Morgan’s players who have been in this situation before weighed in on the tournament. Cooper commented, “The game against Towers showed me that we are a tough team to beat when we have everything clicking. There is room to improve and we can’t take our foot off the gas because this week we play Central Macon. We have been scouting these guys and putting in new things so we will be prepared.” Woodard chimed in with these words, “I think we reacted to the situation (being behind) very well and we gave a lot of effort which was the difference in us winning. Going to the Elite Eight is nothing new (he’s started in the last three), but we will need to have a great week of practice and pay attention to detail of this Central Macon team.”