By R. Alan Richardson
It wasn’t an easy week for the hardcourt Dogs, but they came away unscathed after two Region 8-AAA wins over the East Jackson Eagles 66-61 and the Jefferson Dragons 70-63 at home. The guard play of Stevin Greene, Tyrin Lawrence, and Alec Woodard continue to be the force behind MOCO’s 6-1 record and 3-0 start in Region play. The big three scored 110 points in the two contests that accounted for 81 percent of Morgan’s scoring. Greene was the leading scorer in the win over East Jackson with 23 while Lawrence poured in 29 against Jefferson Friday night.
The Tuesday game was much closer than most expected, but that’s what you get when you’re the lead Dog. Morgan jumped out to a quick 15-7 lead before the Eagles closed the gap to 15-13 at the end of the first quarter. They then took the lead with seven minutes remaining in the second at 17-15. There were several runs by both teams including one by MOCO in the second period. Trailing 20-15, Lawrence scored five straight that included a resounding dunk on a nice assist from Greene on a fast break to tie things up with 4:27 remaining before the half. The score was knotted at 28-apiece at intermission.
A barrage of three-pointers from the Eagles kept things close going into the final quarter. It was 45-45 with only eight minutes to go. It was a see-saw game after that. After a Morgan County timeout, the Bulldog press and Woodard forced five straight turnovers that led to buckets and a fifth foul on one of Jefferson’s key players. Lawrence made a pair of free throws that were promptly followed by back-to-back steals by Woodard that he converted into easy layups. The Dogs then got a five-second closely guarded call and Greene drew a charge that fouled out the aforementioned player. After the smoke cleared the Dogs held a slim 60-55 lead that they clung to for the remainder of the game. Morgan did not score a field goal over the final three minutes and change of the game.
East Jackson had to go into a fouling attack to force Morgan to go to the free throw line during that span. Greene was 5-6 from the line over that time and Woodard knocked down three of his four attempts to seal the win at 66-61.
One key stat for the Dogs included shooting 76% from the line which proved to be one difference in the game. Even though the three-pointing shooting was lower than you would expect (29%), the 45% shooting from the field was enough to overcome that deficit. Another was the 23 points the team got off of turnovers. Lawrence had 15 and four steals, Woodard 14 to go along with his four steals and six assists, and AJ Brown pitched in with nine to lead the way in the win. Turnovers are still a problem as the Dogs committed 17 on the night.
Friday’s game seemed to go much the same. Even though the team shot only 15% from beyond the arc, they were potent overall shooting 51% from the field. In the Jefferson contest, Lawrence got his 29 from inside and out with four dunks coming in different fashions. He got two on putbacks, one on a fast break, and one off a set play. It was one of his better efforts for the year even though he missed portions of the game with blood on his jersey. Greene got nine points to go with his five assists and Woodard capped off the majority of the scoring with 20 of his own.
The Dragons came out smoking and hit the first two three’s (hit eight overall) of the game to take the 6-2 lead in the early stages, but Morgan fought back to regain the lead at 9-8 with 2:15 to go in the first. The quarter ended at 15-13 Morgan.
MOCO stretched their lead out to eight points by creating some defensive zone pressure in the second stanza, but Jefferson would not be going quietly into the night in this one. The Dogs led by a single point after two quarters of play 29-28.
The third was a high-scoring eight minutes. With Jefferson leading 33-31, the horses went to work. Lawrence was fouled on an and-one opportunity, but couldn’t convert the free throw to tie things up. Greene followed that up with back-to-back scores of his own that included an old-fashioned three point play. Woodard then got a tough driving layup to move the Dogs out to the lead at 43-36. Later in the quarter, it was Lawrence who scored twice including a putback dunk that pushed the lead to 11 52-41. It looked like the Dogs might rout Jefferson at that point with the momentum fully in their favor.
However, the Dragons closed the gap to seven points with the score at 54-47, but that was as close as they would get. It was Lawrence with eight fourth quarter points that sealed the win for Morgan in the 70-63 “W.”
Morgan will now play in the Palmetto Winter Classic in Columbia, SC this weekend after traveling to Jackson County this past Tuesday.