By R. Alan Richardson
With wins of 55-38 over Franklin County and 46-41 over Duluth the Morgan County Bulldogs moved to 16-1 over the weekend and remained number one in Class AAA. They are currently ranked at number seven in all-classification rankings on MaxPreps. AAAAAAA McEachern heads the All-State list at number one while Hart County trails the Dogs at number four in AAA and Jefferson is hanging around the top ten in the classification as well. AAAAAAA Newton, who the Dogs play Saturday, will be a tough task with the Rams standing at number nine in the state rankings. No rest for the weary this week.
The Dogs, led by the first-quarter play of Stevin Greene and Tyrin Lawrence, jumped out to a 19-8 lead over Region 8-AAA opponent, Franklin County, 19-8 in Friday’s action. They held that lead throughout the half and the remainder of the contest to take the 17 point victory over the Lions. Alec Woodard led all scorers with 19 on 8-of-12 shooting while backcourt mate Lawrence had 18 going 8-for-14 from the field while grabbing eight rebounds to go with his three assists, four steals, and three blocked shots. Greene added eight and Nolan Causwell got five with seven boards.
Saturday’s contest was a tough one for the Dogs as they faced off with AAAAAAA opponent Duluth. The defensive struggle saw MOCO win the game down the stretch. Even though Morgan seemed to control the game throughout, the Wildcats made a wild second-half comeback to take the lead at 33-31 with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter. It was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.
With 4:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, Coach Jamond Sims went to his All-Region four-year starter Woodard. The senior scored five of Morgan’s final seven points on isolation plays in the waning moments to seal the deal 46-41. Woodard ended the game with 17 points and Lawrence got 12 in the low-scoring contest.
Head Coach Jamond Sims commented on the wins, “We got two quality wins this week over Franklin and a very tough Duluth team. Alec was key in both of those wins. He’s gotten a lot stronger and is able to absorb contact when he gets going downhill. We need some games like this with Duluth. It doesn’t help you that much when you win by 25. Sure, it’s a confidence builder and you get a chance to see what some others can do, but you need these close games going into the playoffs. It gives you confidence when you’re in a 2-3 possession game against athletic, well-coached man-to-man teams that you can pull those games out. I was proud of how we responded after leading most of the game and then losing the lead. It took the air out of our sails, but we rebounded and the comeback was big for us.”
Looking to this week, Sims said, “It’s going to be a challenging week for us with Hart (this past Tuesday) and Newton on Saturday. Hart is ranked number four or five depending on which poll you look at and Newton is number seven in AAAAAAA. They are right behind us in the State rankings. We should find out this week what kind of team we have before getting into the second half of the Region schedule and moving toward the playoffs. This will be our first game with Hart after an earlier cancellation.” Right now Jefferson is in sole possession of second place in the Region standings with Hart, Franklin, and others fighting for third and fourth place at this time.
One of the big reasons for Morgan’s continued success has been the play of 6-9, 212 pound center Nolan Causwell. He comes from good stock. Father, Duane Causwell, played at Temple for the legendary John Chaney and later was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings at number 18 overall. The 7’0” Causwell played 11 seasons in the league for the Kings and the Miami Heat.
Nolan said, “I think I’m becoming more comfortable and my play has improved. My teammates have helped me to get more confident in myself and the way I’ve been playing. I also feel good about if one of us is lacking on a certain night, they have confidence in me and I have confidence in them to get the job done. I need to be more aggressive and get stronger. I’ve been working hard on my conditioning and strength with Coach Sims during our fourth period class. It’s going to be a tough week for us, a challenging week with Hart and Newton, but we’re ready for the challenge.” The big fella says he’s not really talking to any schools right now and isn’t sure of his plans for next year. One thing’s for sure. He’s ready for the stretch run with his new teammates.
Game time for Saturday in Covington against the Newton Rams is 5 p.m. for girls and 6:30 p.m. for boys’ varsity.