By R. Alan Richardson
What an incredible run it’s been for the Morgan County High School boys’ basketball team. The squad came into the 2018-19 Region 8-AAA Tournament as the number one seeded team and they did not disappoint…again. For the eighth time in so many years the boys hoisted the Region Championship trophy by defeating Monroe Area in the semifinals 65-39 and Jefferson 58-51 in the Championship contest.
That string of wins is of historic value. Riding the shoulders of four-year starter Alec Woodard and three-year starters Tyrin Lawrence and Stevin Greene, the Bulldogs also extended their regular season undefeated win record to eight years as well. It would take a bit of research to find another high school program in the modern era to rival that record.
Thursday’s matchup with the Purple Hurricanes came on the heels of the final regular season contest where Morgan only defeated Monroe by four points 63-59. This time the Dogs got an early lift from junior guard AJ Brown to take a 12-2 lead with Brown scoring Morgan’s first eight points. This game, however, would be a game of runs by both teams. After a Monroe timeout with 4:18 remaining in the first period and the Dogs leading 12-2, the Canes scored eight straight of their own to cut the lead to 12-10. Buckets by Trent Folds, Lawrence, and Greene gave Morgan a 19-12 advantage after eight minutes of play.
The Dogs came out of the break outscoring Monroe 8-2 to take a commanding 27-14 lead, but the Canes cut it to six points late in the quarter. Morgan led at the half by nine at 34-25.
A big third quarter broke things open for the Dogs. A balanced attack, led by Woodard’s seven points, pushed the lead to 19 at 53-34 and Morgan never looked back. Unofficial scoring had Brown with 15 points, Greene with six, Woodard with 15, and Lawrence with 11. Greene’s floor play was outstanding in this one. His precise passing and all-around court awareness may have been one of his best efforts of the season. Down the stretch, Nolan Causwell was a force as well; blocking shots, getting big rebounds, and hustling for loose balls was a major reason for the win.
Saturday’s Championship game went down to the wire with the Jefferson Dragons. The game went back-and-forth the entire night with the biggest lead coming on the final score of 58-51. Lead changes came early and often. Brown was again hot in the first quarter hitting two big three-pointers while Lawrence also gave the Dogs a lift early. Jefferson hit two late three pointers to come away with a 13-10 advantage after the first period.
Woodard opened the second quarter with a three of his own to tie things up, but the Dragons went up 20-14. Greene hit two late three’s of his own and Lawrence got two baskets to give MOCO a 26-25 lead before Jefferson got a last-second putback off a free throw to take a one-point 27-26 lead into halftime.
Lawrence put his teammates on his back in the third period scoring the first ten points for the Dogs. His final two points of that stretch came off a dunk to give Morgan the 36-32 lead, but Jefferson would not go away. It was 42-42 with eight minutes remaining to determine the Champs.
It was Woodard’s turn in the final stanza to carry the Dogs. His nine points came off of a bucket to give Morgan a 46-45 lead. He then proceeded to go 6-7 from the free throw line to seal the deal late. Defense was another key in the final four minutes. After Causwell scored an inside basket at the four minute mark, Morgan held the Dragons to only two points the rest of the way. Woodard (6-6), Greene, and Desmond White (2-2) went a combined 9-10 over that stretch from the charity stripe for the win. It was a complete win to make it EIGHT STRAIGHT! The boys are now 24-2 after running the table in 8-AAA.
After the completion of the game, the Bulldogs took home the Region Trophy, but also garnered some individual hardware as well. Senior Stevin Greene was awarded a first-team All-Region 8-AAA plaque while Tyrin Lawrence and Alec Woodard received their award as the 8-AAA Co-Players-of-the-Year. Congratulations to these three seniors who have meant so much to the basketball program over the past four seasons.
Sims summed it all up with these words, “It was good for our guys to have a tough test to end the region playoffs. I love the way our guys were able to find a way to make the plays needed, in order to win. Having different kids contribute down the stretch gives an extra vote of confidence moving forward. Being a part of five region titles was an eye opener for me, but eight consecutive region championships for the program is hard to fathom. It’s just a testament to the type of basketball players that have been through Morgan County. Having those young men being selected to the All Region team was special. Special to the point that they never even asked if they were selected to the team before the post-game presentation was made. Just shows you how selfless each of the team members are and how focused they are on team goals.”
The Bulldogs will now play at home in the first round of the State Basketball Tournament Playoffs against the Redan Raiders who are 14-13 overall and 7-5 in league play. They are the number four seeded team out of Region 5-AAA. Game time has been set for 6:00 p.m. on Feb 16. Tickets are $7 as set by the GHSA for all State Tournament games.