By R. Alan Richardson
When it comes to elite teams, players, and coaches, Saturday night’s contest at Newton High School had all the makings of a great one from the time it was scheduled a year ago. Two teams ranked in the top 10 state-wide, outstanding soon-to-be college players on both sides, and two coaches with 20 plus wins per season over the past decade and beyond. It was simply a “War” and one of the best high school games you’ll ever see.
Morgan came into the evening 16-1 and ranked number one in AAA as well as number six overall in the State. The Rams entered with a 14-3 overall record and posted as the number eight team in Georgia right behind the Dogs. The AAAAAAA opponent got the best of MOCO a year ago in Madison with a five point win. This time it was Morgan’s turn. The Dogs turned in an outstanding fourth quarter to take the 56-51 win in a thriller.
Make no mistake about it. If you didn’t have your big boy pants on for this one, you should have just stayed in the locker room. Most average players couldn’t even have gotten open in this one. It was a defensive struggle from the outset and no place for the meek or timid inside the paint. Every shot was contested, no drive went without consequences, and every possession saw player resolve being tried and tested. There were bloodied lips and jerseys, stitches the next day, sprained ankles, knock downs, fans ejected, and a little smack-talk from both sides. It was a doozy. I’m just glad I was there to see it unfold.
Had the Bulldogs not shot 38% from the field and 20% from three-point land, the game might not have been that close. Some credit has to be given to the Rams for the defensive effort, especially in the first half. Morgan went 7-30 from the field in the opening 16 minutes, but still only trailed by four 20-16 at the break. A big fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the contest as the good guys outscored Newton 24-16 in the final stanza. The Dogs also hit some crucial free throws down the stretch going 10-12 on the night for 83%.
Tyrin Lawrence continued his leading ways by scoring 24 in the win, while backcourt mates, Alec Woodard and Stevin Greene poured in 16 and 14 respectively. The multi-talented duo of Lawrence (13) and Woodard (12) combined for 25 rebounds against the athletic Rams’ squad. One note of importance was when Malik Crawford entered the contest in the first quarter. The 6’5” senior stepped onto the court for his first appearance of the season to a nice round of applause and showed why he will be an important cog in the Big Red and Black Machine down the stretch.
Earlier in the week the Dogs took out 8-AAA opponents Hart County 70-53 and East Jackson 62-36 on the road. This past Monday Morgan took only their second loss of the season to Langston-Hughes at the MLK Day Dream Challenge at Grady High School losing by eight to another AAAAAA opponent 80-67. It sounded like the Dogs had somewhat of an off night, according to Jamond Sims, and may have had a hangover after the Newton war Saturday.
Morgan’s leaders for the East Jackson game included Lawrence with 17, Woodard with 16, and Nolan Causwell with 9 points to go along with his team-leading seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. At Hart County, Lawrence again led the scoring with 19 followed by Greene’s 18, Woodard’s 9, and AJ Brown’s 8 points. Team stats that jumped out at you included the Dogs shooting percentages of 47% from the field, 54% from three-point land, and 83% from the line.
The Dogs moved to 19-2 on the season with three important 8-AAA contests looming for the remainder of the week. They will hit the road for an away game at Jefferson (this past Tuesday) and then return home for senior night against Jackson County Friday followed by a rematch with the second place Hart County Bulldogs Saturday. Game times for varsity starts at 7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s going to be a busy week for the Dogs. Get out this weekend and support our seniors Friday as well as Saturday in a game that has Region and State implications.