By R. Alan Richardson
Without the services of an injured Tyrin Lawrence, the Morgan County Bulldogs used a balanced offense to drub Franklin County 62-46 in their first Region 8-AAA contest. MOCO went on the road to face a team that some think could be in the conversation for a State playoff spot this season. The Dogs moved to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in 8-AAA play with the win. According to the MaxPreps State rankings, the Bulldogs are number three in all classifications and number one in AAA in the early rankings. Hart County, under new/old Coach Harry Marsh is breathing down the necks of Morgan coming in as the second-ranked team in AAA after a fine season a year ago. Class 7A Newton, who the Dogs will face off with after Christmas, is currently considered the best team in the State at number one.
The Lions kept it close for a while, but the Dogs proved too much for the home team. The bookies in Vegas would most likely give Morgan the nod to repeat as Region Champions, but there’s a big target on their back with teams giving them their best shot night in and night out. After all, if you’ve won the Region six times straight and been in the hunt for a State Championship every year, that’s bound to happen.
Senior guard Alec Woodard carried his team with 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting and added five assists and five rebounds to the cause. Stevin Greene had 11, Nolan Causwell 10, AJ Brown 9, and Trent Folds got 7. Desmond White and Malachi Hardy each added one free throw to the total. Causwell seems to be getting his feet wet and feeling more comfortable each time he steps on the floor. The big guy grabbed nine rebounds and went five-for-six from the field. Brown went 3-5 from behind the arc. The one negative that sticks out on the stat sheet is the 24 turnovers the Dogs committed. Sims said that was a major concern that needed a lot of attention over the next few days.
The Dogs traveled to Alabama over the weekend to participate in the Braggin’ Rights Tournament Showcase and played Wenonah High School. The Dogs fell 56-53 to the number one team in AAAAA in the state. According to those that attended, MOCO had their chances at the buzzer after leading for a majority of the afternoon, but just couldn’t come up with the big play at the right time.
Lawrence got 16 in the loss while Woodard scored 12 and grabbed eight boards, Brown had 11, and Greene added 10. Morgan was playing a little short-handed without the services of Folds (taking the SAT) and Huff (visiting Georgia Tech). Fatigue could have been a factor late in the contest due to the lack of depth against an excellent team. The Dogs moved to 4-1 overall and still 1-0 in Region play with two major Region 8-AAA games coming up this week against East Jackson (played Tuesday) and Jefferson (Friday).
Head Coach Jamond Sims was unable to attend the game in Alabama due to a death in the family. It was coaching by committee in the words of Brian Green. The coaches weighed in on the Wenonah contest with these remarks. Milfred Franklin said, “They were a very physical and athletic team that played tough and wore us out some. We kind of withered under their physicality as the game progressed. Ty and Alec never came out of the game and got a little tired at times, but that’s not an excuse. It was a good learning experience for us. We now realize we have to get in the best position offensively to make plays. We played well, but just didn’t capitalize down the stretch on our opportunities offensively.”
William Whetstone had some of the same sentiments. He commented, “Without Coach Sims there, we prepared the same as if he was there. I thought we were lacking some toughness at the beginning and throughout the game. We put an emphasis on that at halftime and led most of the game, but the execution down the stretch just didn’t go our way. It was a good effort in a short-handed situation where we only played seven guys. Wenonah was a well-coached team that didn’t get rattled when they got down. We had a great film session today (Monday) and we’ll be better because of this (the loss). I hope we can take out some of our frustrations this week in the home games with East Jackson and Jefferson.”
Coach Brian Green echoed many of these remarks with, “We started slowly, but came back and got the lead at the half. We led until about 2:25 in the fourth quarter, but a couple of mental mistakes and turnovers hurt us down the stretch. We had our chances, but couldn’t make it happen. After this one, you know the players will come back hungry and ready to go this week. All-in-all we played hard and played well.”
After watching the game on live streaming TV and on tape, Sims was positive about his team. “I was yelling at the screen while watching it live. The guys competed. We just left a couple of possessions out there. We think this could be a good thing, but we’ve got a different mixture of young and experience players so we’ll see how it works out collectively. You would hope that today (Monday) would be a good practice and take out a little frustration on our next opponent.”
Morgan faced off with East Jackson Tuesday in their first home game and will now play Jefferson at home on Friday. JV games will begin at 4:00 p.m. Varsity will follow around 7:00 p.m.