By R. Alan Richardson
Morgan’s Middle School basketball squads grabbed two Piedmont Athletic Conference wins over the Redskins of Social Circle Friday in a home game. It was the first win for the boys’ team as the girls stayed undefeated on the season.
In the locker room after the victory, Coach Bo Larkins told his team, “Now we’ve got the monkey off our back, and you guys are seeing what it takes to win. I’m very proud of the team effort.”
The boys locked in defensively from the opening tap, and played some disciplined half court man-to-man that stifled the Redskins usually potent and explosive offense. Social Circle’s boys won the PAC Conference Tournament last season.
Guards Reggie Ross and TJ Thompson set the tone early by scoring all of the Bulldogs’ points in the first quarter. That scoring barrage led to a 12-4 advantage after the first six minutes of play. Starters Tripp Lancaster and Mason Jackson both played well throughout the evening. Jackson, in particular, was a force on the inside and on the glass. He kept the momentum going in the second quarter by scoring a free throw on an inside move he was fouled on and came right back on the next possession to come up with an old-fashioned three-point play in the paint. The lead stretched to 14 after a Ross move to the basket. Social Circle called timeout with 1:43 remaining in the half and scored four straight to get back in the contest at 21-11 at intermission.
The Redskins roared back in the third quarter with deep back-to-back three-pointers and the game was on at 21-17. The quarter ended with Morgan leading 25-21. The Dogs continued their great hustle throughout the final period. Scooter Richardson hit a couple of big free throws to get things going in the fourth. Ross followed that up with two driving scores to give MOCO a 31-24 lead at 3:56. After Social Circle cut the lead to three points at 31-28, Larkins called timeout. Down the stretch it was the free throw shooting that eventually led to the win. Jackson hit the front end of a one-and-one and Thompson made three-of-four from the stripe to hold off the Redskins with under 30 seconds on the clock. It was a good win for the young Bullpups 35-32.
Larkins said, “We got off to a great start defensively in our man-to-man which led to easy baskets on the other end. Reggie and TJ led us offensively with Mason being active on the boards. I felt that we did a great job setting the tone early which was contagious throughout the first half and the game.”
The girls also got the win 33-26 in another close one. Destiny Hunter led all scorers with 16 and Bailey McDaniel hit back-to-back three’s in the second half to hold off a Redskin comeback. Joy Gibbs got a big bucket in the fourth quarter much to the delight of the coaches, team, and fans.
The Lady Dogs jumped out to an early 8-1 lead thanks in part to Hunter’s six points, but Social Circle got a score at the buzzer to close the gap to 8-5. Andrea Cooper, Kymora Smith, and Mya Smith all played exceptionally well. Cooper did a good job running the offense and making several nice assists in the contest. The Smith girls were everywhere defensively to help Morgan put some distance between them and the Lady Redskins. It was 22-11 at the half.
Had it not been for some easy missed putbacks, missed free throws, and turnovers, this one wouldn’t have been that close. The ten point 27-17 lead at the end of three periods melted to 29-23 with 2:25 remaining. However, the girls held on to get the seven-point win.
Coach Brian Cousins said, “We played much better as a team and our defense was much better in this game. We were able to get a lead which allowed us to substitute early and get more girls in the game. Offensively, we were led by Destiny with 16 and Bailey McDaniel provided a spark off the bench hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the second half to help us maintain the lead.”
The next home game for the Middle Schoolers will be Friday Dec. 14 at 4:30 against Jasper County.