By R. Alan Richardson
The 2018-19 version of Morgan County Lady Basketball got under way this past week at Dacula High School in the Dacula Tip-off Classic coming away with two wins against only one loss. The field of girls’ team was deep and talented. Morgan lost their first outing 55-46 to Mountain View, a 7A opponent, but bounced back to defeat another 7A team in Shiloh 59-51 before finishing off the opening games with a white knuckler defeat of Central Gwinnett. They did all of this without the services of their leading scorer and point guard, Lou Reid, who was sidelined with a partially separated shoulder.
With Reid out of the lineup, Miranda Powell took over the scoring gap averaging 21 points over the three-game span to help carry Josh Reeves’ team to a successful beginning of the season.
Reeves commented on the early season games, “Lou looked great in our pre-season scrimmage win over a highly ranked Madison County team. She’s our floor leader and point guard, so without her in that first game against Mountain View we were a little lost in the first half. We played choppy and got behind, but kicked it in the fourth quarter. Taylor (Wilson) played, but it was her first game back just coming off an ankle injury. We played well despite some of these setbacks, but we did not shoot well.” Powell got 18 in the loss and Tamia Benford added 13 in the nine-point loss.
The team regrouped against Shiloh the next night and won. “We played better, but it was much closer than we wanted. We stayed ahead with our up in your face man-to-man. Our on ball defense was really good. It was great to see how we guarded, kept them out of the lane, and got some mileage out of our 1-2-2 press as well.”
The 59-51 win sent MOCO into the fifth place consolation game to face off with a solid Central Gwinnett squad. It was a barn burner with Morgan’s Benford getting the winning bucket on a layup off the dribble with only 20 seconds remaining in the game. Reeves was obviously pleased with the outcome. “Central had good athletes across the board, but I thought we were the better team. We went up by 10 in the first half only to see them come back and cut that lead to one at halftime. In the second half, we jumped out to another double digit lead before they tied it up with about 45 seconds left 49-49. We set up a play that was designed for Miranda, but Tamia got an advantage and took it to the basket for an and-one bucket to give us the three-point lead. They did get off one last shot that didn’t go in and we got the win.”
According to Reeves, Powell was the one constant for the Lady Dogs throughout the tournament. Her 21 ppg average would probably have been good enough for an All-Tournament selection had MOCO not lost in the first round and been in the consolation bracket. The Coach gave some kudos to her and others with these words, “She did a great job of shooting it and taking it strong off the dribble for some short-range jumpers. She made plays. Miranda was definitely all-tournament and all-everything for us. Neshay (Cobb) also had a good tournament averaging around 13 rebounds and eight points.” In the second half against Central Gwinnett, the junior grabbed nine boards, had two blocks, and scored eight points in the win.
Reeves also noted how his team’s balance (when healthy) will be hard to guard. His four-guard lineup will most likely include Reid, Powell, Wilson, Benford, and Cobb calling Benford the wildcard. “If Tamia is playing the four spot, most teams won’t be able to use a big to guard her on the perimeter. When you have guards like Miranda and Lou that can both go for 20 on any given night, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and gives opportunities to others around them. It creates mismatches where our opponents won’t be able to stay in front of our other quick players.” He also mentioned how well Courtney Elder, Victoria Chapman, and freshman Shay Brown played in the tournament.
Morgan will next face Buford (played on Tuesday of this week after our deadline), a team with a deep history of playing excellent basketball. It will certainly be a test for the team. Reid will most likely be back and start at Buford. “I think we match up better than in previous years with Buford when they had three Division I players in their starting lineup. They shoot the cover off the ball and are well coached by long-time veteran Gene Durden. I think it’s good to play the best early to see what we’ve got,” Reeves commented.
The girls’ first home game is slated for December 11 against Franklin County in the first Region 8-AAA contest. (Note to fans: The first scheduled home game with Hart County has been rescheduled to a later date in December.) They will also host the Sweet South Classic Holiday Christmas Tournament in December as well.