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A SEASON TO REMEMBER

Staff Written Featured, Sports

Nov. 24, Nov. 25

Holiday Hoopsgiving Tournament

Pebblebrook  HS 

St. Francis

Fans got a chance to see how special the 2018-2019 version of the Morgan County Bulldogs could be after they travelled to Holy Innocents and dispatched 7A Pebblebook (ranked 13th in the state at that time) 70-64 followed by a win against St. Francis 82-67. St. Francis was then-ranked number one for private schools when they met the Dogs. Morgan was coming off a scrimmage loss against Shiloh High School and Coach Jamond Sims liked what he saw from his team.

“It was good to see everybody share the ball. It never got stuck on one side of the floor or in one person’s hands during the tournament.”

Dec. 1

Gainesville

Coach Sims didn’t mention it until after the game but the 55-49 win over 6A Gainesville marked his 200th win as a head coach, averaging 20 wins per season in his career. The Dogs took on Gainesville at the North Georgia University Showcase Tournament. Despite a sluggish start (Gainesville led 8-0 early) the Dogs caught their rhythm behind a team effort and introduced 6’8” transfer Nolan Causey into the mix. 

“It was a good win for the good guys, but not necessarily our best performance this season. We didn’t string together four strong quarters like we would have been pleased with,” Sims said.

Dec. 4

Franklin County

Morgan County opened their region schedule with a 62-46 win over Franklin County High School. The Dog stretched their record to 3-0 with the win and learned they were ranked fifth in the state. Senior guard Alex Woodard took charge in the game, scoring 23 points in a 9-16 shooting night. Steven Greene had 11 points, Nolan Causwell had 10 and A.J. Brown contributed nine n the game. Twenty-four turnovers blemished an otherwise stellar game for the Dogs.

Dec. 8

Wenonah High School

The Dogs dropped their first game of the year after they travelled to the Bragging Rights Showcase Tournament in Birmingham and took on the number one ranked 5A Wenonah High School team. The Dogs lost 56-53 in a game where several Morgan County players were absent (one was taking the SAT, a second starter was taking an official college visitation to a prospective Division 1 school) and was without Head Coach Jamond Sims who was absent because of a family emergency. However, the Dogs played tough against a “very physical and athletic team,” said Coach Milfred Franklin. The Dogs led until 2:25 in the fourth.

Dec. 11

East Jackson

Strong guard play by Stevin Greene, Tyrin Lawrence and Alec Woodard begins to pace the Dogs in a 66-61 win over Region 8-AAA opponent East Jackson. The Dogs dropped a gritty East Jackson team 66-61 in a contest that included a monster dunk by Tyrin Lawrence and a 76 percent shooting percentage from the charity stripe by the Dogs. The Dogs also capitalized on turnovers, picking up 23 of their 66 points from take-aways.

Dec. 14

Jefferson High School

A 70-63 win against Jefferson High School pushed the Dogs record to 6-1 and 3-0 in the region. The now number one ranked Dogs used a hometown atmosphere to get the solid win behind a 29 point effort by Lawrence including eight fourth quarter points. Guard Steven Greene was named Morgan County’s ‘Athlete of the Week’ after the contest.

Dec. 18

Jackson County

Morgan County exploded with a 83-23 win over region foe Jackson Count behind an Alex Woodard showcase. Woodard went for 28 points on a 11-15 shooting nights where he also went 5-7 from the three point line.  He also grabbed six rebounds, had three assists and six steals. The Dogs defensive game was stifling and the game became a blowout in the first quarter. The score was 42-12 at the half.

Dec. 20

Ridge View High School

Morgan County found out how tough they could be after taking a triple-overtime win against Ridge View High School 89-87 in the first game of the Palmetto Winter Classic Tournament in South Carolina. 

Dec. 21

Holly Springs High School

In the second game for the Dogs in the Palmetto Winter Classic held in Columbia, S.C. the Dogs dispatched Holly Springs with a 60-58 win to push their overall season record to 9-1 while Coach Sims continued to push the team against all-comers and competition from across the southeast. The Dogs had to hold off a hot-shooting Holly Springs team in the fourth quarter to retain the win. Holly Springs put up 24 points against the Dogs eight in the fourth.

Dec. 22

Blythewood High School

In the championship game at the Palmetto Winter Classic, Morgan County earned their first tournament championship by beating Blythewood High School 77-66. The win pushed the Dogs record to 10-1 and put the Dogs in position to come home and play in their own “Sweet South Classic.”

Dec. 27

Apalachee High School

In the first game of the Sweet South Classic in Madison, the Dogs dropped Apalachee 72-61 behind strong early plat by Woodard, Lawrence and Greene. The big three scored 12 of Morgan’s first 14 points in the win. Despite the fast start, Apalachee played a tough game and kept the contest close until Morgan pulled away in the third  with a 20-15 run against Apalachee.

Dec. 28

Greene County High School

The Dogs, bolstered by a full, hometown crowd and facing county-line rival Greene County, exploded with a 91-56 win against the Tigers. Despite Greene County’s top 10 state ranking, the Dogs started fast with Greene lighting up the scoreboard and Lawrence adding thundering dunks to set the tone for the rivalry game. Lawrence had 19 in the game. A.J. Brown and Woodard had 13 in the game.

Dec. 29

Druid Hills High School

In the Sweet South Tournament championship game, Morgan County beat 5A Druid Hills 68-58. The game was called with 32 seconds to go after an altercation behind the Druid Hills bench but not before the Dogs had stretched the lead to 10 points including a 12-0 run early in the first quarter behind back-to-back three pointers by Greene and Lawrence. Lawrence was named MVP for the tournament and Greene was named to the “All Tournament” team.

Jan. 4

Monroe Area

A 79-53 win over Monroe Ara pushed the Dogs season record to 14-1 but the win was bittersweet with the announcement that the game would be senior Jordan Huff’s last as a Morgan County Bulldog. Huff left the team early to take early enrollment at Georgia Tech where the Morgan County athlete had committed to play football. Huff, typically the sixth man off the bench, got the starting nod this night from Coach Sims and came out 3-4 from the field including a three pointer. “We’re really going to miss Jordan,” Coach Sims said after the game. “It was a great game to finish his high school career with the guys he’s been playing with since sixth grade. It was something special. He brings everything every day to practice and games going full speed in everything he does. Jordan’s a tough kid, a stopper, a guy that makes things happen and is called on to defend the best guard on the other team.”

Huff received a standing ovation from the home crowd after the game.

Jan. 11

Franklin County High School

In the second contest against Franklin County, Morgan County showed its steady improvement by beating Franklin 55-38. The Dogs jumped out to a 19-8 lead over Franklin and never looked back. Coach Sims said Woodard had improved his game as the season wears on, including his ability to withstand punishment in the paint. “He’s gotten a lot stronger and is able to absorb contact when he gets going downhill.”

Jan. 12

Duluth High School

The Dogs took on one of the better 7A teams in the area and walked out of the Morgan County High School gym with a 45-41 win in a contest that Coach Sims said was needed for improvement of the program. “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 two or three possession game against athletic, well-coached, man-to-man teams…”

Jan. 15

Hart County High School

In the first of a two-game tilt against what would become a further preview of the 3A state championship game, Morgan County beat Hart County 70-53 at Hart County. Lawrence led the scoring in the region game with 19 points. Greene had 18 in the game and Brown had eight. The Dogs shot 47 percent from the field and 54 percent from the three-point line.

Jan. 19

East Jackson High School

In another region contest, Morgan County easily dispatched East Jackson for the second time in the season, this time by 26 points. The Dogs won on the road 62-36. Lawrence again led the scoring with 17. Woodard had 16 and Causwell had nine points with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Jan. 19

Newton County High School

This one was a war. In a much-anticipated match-up between the state-wide overall sixth ranked Bulldogs against the eighth ranked Rams. The Dogs, ranked number one in 3A, were still stinging after a five point loss last year to 7A Newton County. In a tight game against two equally matched opponents, the Dogs turned in a 24-16 fourth quarter  to seal the win. Morgan County Citizen sports editor Robert Alan Richardson said, “every shot was contested, no drive went without consequences…” 

Lawrence led scoring in the game with 24 followed by Woodard and Greene with 16 and 14 points respectively. Also worth noting, Senior Malik Crawford made his first appearance on the court, adding depth to the Dogs squad.

Jan. 21

Langston Hughes High School

While it didn’t matter much in the big picture, Langston-Hughes High School handed Morgan County High School its second (and only) loss for the season. Playing in the MLK Day Dream Challenge at Grady High School in Atlanta, Langston-Hughes beat the Dogs 50-42 in a game. The game was played soon after the Newton County tilt and the 6A opponent wore a weary Bulldog team down.

Jan. 22

Jefferson High School

The Dogs took care of Jefferson High School 68-59 to notch another win against a region foe in a week that had Morgan County taking three straight region contests. Playing at Jefferson, Morgan County controlled the game from the start with Woodard leading the scorers with 23 points. The Dogs also got a huge contribution from Trent Folds. Folds went 2 for 4 from the field and made three free throws to go with six rebounds, three steals and a block.

Jan. 25

Jackson County High School

This game may forever be known for “The Dunk.” During the Jackson County game, which was also senior night at home, guard  Greene took an alley-ooo pass from Woodard and took his 5’7” frame over the rim for a thunderous dunk that had the house reeling. Morgan kept its region record perfect with a 74-50 win on a night where all of the strong senior class for the Dogs were honored.

Jan. 26

Hart County High School

While no one would have guessed that this game was not going to be the last against Hart, Morgan took down Hart County 66-55 for its last regular season home game and to set the table for a region finale with Monroe. Woodard again paced the Dogs against Hart with 31 points, nearly half of the team’s output. Lawrence scored 25 points in the game. 

Jan. 29 

Monroe  Area High School

The Dogs posted a 63-59 win against Monroe Area to seal its undefeated region record and move in the Region 8AAA basketball tournament as a number one seed with two bye games. Against Monroe, Sims said it wasn’t the pre-tournament output he was searching for by his team. “We jumped out on them early and then put it in neutral and coasted after that.” Despite the flat play, Sims said he wasn’t worried about his number one ranked 3A team come state tournament time. “It’s win or go home when you get to that point.”

‘I just hope these guys really relish and embrace what they’ve been able to do for the past four years and even beyond that.”

Feb. 7

Region Tournament

Monroe Area High School

Morgan advanced through its top seed ranking to the semi-final game of the Region 8AAA Basketball tournament and faced a Monroe Area team it had just dispatched in late January. The Dogs did it again, taking down the Purple Hurricanes with a 65-42 win, handing Monroe Area its worst loss for the season. While the game remained tight early, the Dogs exploded in the third, pushing their lead to 19 points at the end of third. Brown led the scoring with 15, Woodard also had 15 and Lawrence had 11.

Feb. 9

Region Tournament

Jefferson High School

In the Region 8AAA Basketball Tournament championship game, Morgan County defeated a gritty Jefferson High School 58-51 to mark it’s unbelievable eighth straight region championship. However, Jefferson would not go easily. The two teams traded punches for the entire game with Morgan pulling away late. The win solidified the Dogs season record at 24-2. Greene was named to the Region 8AAA All-Region team while Lawrence and Woodard were named Region 8AAA co-players of the year.

“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 th plays needed in order to win. Having different kids contribute down the stretch gives an extra vote of confidence moving forward. Being 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,” Sims said.

Feb. 15

State Championship

Redan High School

At this point, nothing was going to come easy. Morgan faced a game Redan who managed to run with the Dogs deep into the third quarter. Morgan was up 29-22 when a Lawrence three-pointer opened the game up for the Dogs and they reeled of run after run to lead 45-31 at the end of the third. Eventually, Morgan would hold a 21 point lead in the fourth before punching their ticket to the sweet sixteen with a 69-51 win. The win gave the Dogs a 26-2 record and put them on track for grudge match game against Greater Atlanta Christian in the elite 8 of the state tournament.

Feb. 21

State Championship

Greater Atlanta Christian High School

There wasn’t a seat available for this heavy-weight fight. Greater Atlanta Christian came to Morgan after knocking them out of last year’s state title run, winning 73-71 in a Final Four contest. Not this team, not this year, however. Morgan fired out of the blocks with a 5-0 lead and stretched that lead to a 14-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Dogs would never trail in this game, Greene scored by slashing to the bucket, Lawrence hit long range shots and destroyed GAC at the foul line. Causwell played a huge part in the victory, turning in his best game of the season and Woodard scored 15 in the second quarter alone. With 2:22 to go and Morgan leading 67-48 the defense backed off and allowed GAC open range long shots. GAC scored seven of there total points in the last 50 seconds.

“Our defense was locked in,” said Sims. “Their coach told me after the game that the game film he saw of us was nothing like what they saw in the first five minutes…”

“When the guys really want to play defense, they can be dominant. I thought the effort of our inside guys Malik, Nolan and Trent was outstanding. It was good to see those guys who don’t normally get the publicity of our guards play like that. They made a huge difference.”

Feb. 26

State Championship

Tattnall County High School

While this game never felt in jeopardy, the Dogs came out slow against the Tattnall County Warriors. Tattnall rode an early wave of three point shots to keep things close during the game while Morgan County could not manage a single three point bucket. In the end, though, Morgan’s ultra-talented squad found a way and defeated Tattnall 62-52. The win was punctuated by a monster dunk by Lawrence late in the game when he took the baseline and brought the house to its collective feet with the slam and extended Morgan’s lead to 58-47. With 30 seconds to go Tattnall dropped a layup that tightened the score to 58-52 but they would make no more as Morgan started thinking semi-final.

March 2

State Championship

Windsor Forest High School

Morgan County fans had to travel to Savannah to watch an inspired Dog team destroy Windsor Forest 82-63 in the 3A State Championship semi-final game. The win  marked the fourth time in five years that Coach Sims had placed the Dogs in the state title game. Morgan relied on its “big three” of Woodard, Lawrence and Greene to dominate the Windsor Forest Knights. The threesome contributed a combined 62 points in the game with Woodward leading all scorers with 23.

“They all three had fantastic shot selection early in the game and throughout the night. We took very few three-pointers and even those were wide open shots.”

The Dogs outscored the Knights 22-10 in the third quarter to take a 25 point lead. Greene added to his high-light reel with a nifty ally-oop to Lawrence on a break-away that Lawrence gathered for a nasty dunk that sealed Windsor Forest.

“Everybody contributed in this one,” Sims said. “Our whole team was part of this one,” Woodard said. “It didn’t matter who wa sin the game…”

March 7

State Championship 

Final

Hart County High School

For the third time in the season Morgan County was asked to face a tough Hart County squad, this time for everything. Morgan won the game 68-54 to give Coach Sims his second state championship in the past five years. Both Hart County and Morgan County travelled well to the Macon Centreplex for the 8 p.m. game. Early in the game with the score tied 5-5 Morgan went on a 14-7 tear to take a 19-12 advantage. However, Hart County would pull within three points at 19-16 before the Dogs went on a 8-0 run to take a 27-16 lead with 4:38 left in the half. Morgan held its lead in the third and had a 44-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Woodard and Lawrence, a dominate pair the entire year, took charge of the state championship game in the fourth. The pair combined for 18 or Morgan’s final 24 points, facing a barrage of three pointers from Hart County. 

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