By R. Alan Richardson
When it comes down to the 2018-19 hardcourt Dogs, Morgan County will look to senior guards Alec Woodard, Tyrin Lawrence, and Stevin Greene to do what they are expected to do. The opening weekend put those expectations on exhibition as the “Big Three” scored 129 of the Bulldogs’ 152 points offensively to lead the attack. The Bulldogs traveled to Holy Innocents for the Holiday Hoopsgiving Tournament taking their first two wins. The opposition was no slouch as MOCO disposed of Pebblebrook (ranked 13th in Class AAAAAAA) 70-64 and St. Francis (ranked first in Class A Private Schools) 82-67.
Head Coach Jamond Sims weighed in on his team’s play, “I thought the guys came out more aggressive than we did in our scrimmage loss to Shiloh. We were defensively locked in for the first two games. It was also good to see everybody share the ball. It never got stuck on one side of the floor or in one person’s hands during the tournament.”
In Friday’s contest vs Pebblebrook, it was Woodard leading the way with 23. Lawrence and Greene each added 18 apiece. Jordan Huff also added five to the total. Woodard was 7-11 from the field, 5-6 from behind the arc, 4-6 from the line and grabbed six boards to go along with two assists. It was a complete night for the senior who recently signed with Austin Peay. Lawrence led the team with seven rebounds while Greene added five rebounds and five assists. One highlight for Morgan, and a big difference in the contest, was their accuracy from the free throw line going 15-20 (71%) at the stripe. MOCO shot 44% on the night and 47% from three-point land.
Saturday’s game against St. Francis saw Greene lighting up the night with 29 points (24 in the first half) while Lawrence poured in 24 followed by Woodard with 17. The little guy stole the show with his first half performance and ended the game on 10-21 shooting, 5-11 from three-point land, and 4-4 from the free throw line. He also had seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. Lawrence led the team with eight boards and went 9-16 from the field. Woodard was near perfect with an 8-10 shooting night and added five steals for the Bulldogs.
Sims said, “The good thing about our three seniors was how efficient they were (45-88 51%) for the tournament . They took good shots and didn’t force anything. Moving forward from here we need to continue to keep our chemistry where it is, but also get some other guys involved in our offense. AJ Brown is one of those guys that when he gets going he can fill it up, but there are others we hope to get involved too. It was also good to see Stevin get more aggressive and start looking for his shot a little more.”
One Achilles heel for the Dogs could come down to rebounding against bigger and more athletic teams that they will face. Sims addressed that concern. “We have to make sure we work more on boxing out instead of using our athleticism. There will come a time when the teams we play will be just as athletic as we are. We need to be more physical.” Losing KJ Wyatt to a devastating football injury will most likely keep him out for the remainder of the season. Jordan Huff, who is active now, could be off to Georgia Tech after the Christmas break to pursue his college football career. Those losses will make it extremely important to put the emphasis he referred to on rebounding. Newcomers and younger players like Malachi Hardy, Aaron Mullins, Trent Folds, and Nolan Causey will be called upon to fill on those missing pieces for the Dogs.
Asked if there had been any surprises after two games, the head man noted, “In addition to some of the big guys we mentioned, I though sophomore Desmond White played well. He’s that extra ballhandler we needed at time to push the tempo and get us into transition without turning the ball over. Aaron got some playing time against Pebblebrook because they were more his body type and he mixed it up a little bit. I think he took away that he needs to meet force with force instead of waiting on contact. He’s strong and can take the beating, but he needs to be the aggressor. He’s working hard and getting better.”
Sims concluded, “I’m excited about the makeup of the team right now and looking forward to seeing what they look like when all the pieces come together.”
The Dogs will travel to North Georgia University for the North Georgia Challenge this Saturday where they will face off with the Gainesville Red Elephants. Game time is undecided as of this issue.